Compared to the famously fecund rabbit, for whom a single act of coitus has a 90% chance of creating a litter of up to 12 rabbits, humans are very infertile animals. Here in the UK, the average chance of conception is about 18% per month. And in 98% of cases, successful conception leads only to the birth of a single infant. It is unsurprising then that huge efforts have been made to increase our fertility.
In vitro fertilisation, first attempted one hundred years ago, has now become big business. Market forces, combined with the desperation of many couples to fulfil their biological imperative, have pushed doctors and scientists closer to the boundaries of what is desirable or ethical. And as we are increasingly able to access and control the embryo, the opportunities of altering human genetics to eradicate disease, but also to change human characteristics, becomes a real, and to some, frightening possibility.
A Child Against All Odds is a ground-breaking book for Robert Winston as it falls squarely in his area of expertise. It combines his work at Hammersmith Hospital as one of the country’s leading fertility specialists, with a hard-hitting, sometimes humorous, often controversial look at the scientific, social and ethical background of man’s struggle to discover and control the secrets of reproduction. Drawing on personal and professional experience, it is the definitive account of modern reproductive technology from a practitioner who has spent his professional life at the forefront of this most fascinating and emotive area of science.
Bantam Publishing (2006)