A MATTER OF LIFE: The Story of a Medical Breakthrough by

A MATTER OF LIFE: The Story of a Medical Breakthrough

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Edwards, an immunologist, and Steptoe, a much older obstetrician, are the British pair who developed the technique that led to the birth of ""test-tube baby"" Louise Brown; and this is chiefly an account of their research--the human side is conspicuously missing. From Edwards, we learn about his education; his training in genetics, embryology, and immunology; and his search for a research field. Steptoe, however, tells us little--leaving us to wonder, in particular, just what experiences with his patients and their families led to his interest in this technique. Edwards chronicles the pair's tribulations: no research money, long distances to travel (the two lived 300 miles apart), no facilities--all aggravated by opposition to their work from the medical and scientific establishment. He also provides most of the commentary on ethical issues. Of course, he maintains, discoveries will have a good and bad side; but the good side will be worth it (""Terrible Brave-New-World visions. . . are based on the pessimistic assumption that the worst will happen. . . . Surely the acceptance of the beginning does not necessitate embracing undesirable ends""). Besides, says Edwards, the moral issue is settled: ""The Declaration of Human Rights made by the United Nations includes the right to establish a family."" Steptoe's chief ethical problem seems to have been shielding his patients from invading reporters once the news broke. Ethical issues aside (and, for many, unanswered), attention will flag--except for those truly interested in research methods--until Lesley Brown (finally) makes her appearance in the last pages.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1980
Publisher: Morrow