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Article published on 30th March 2009 in Lublin region edition of the Polish daily ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’

08/05/09

The Church endorses false science against IVF

A center for NaProTechnology infertility treatment is due to be opened in Lublin. The Church presents NaProTechnology as an alternative to in vitro fertilization. ‘In my opinion it is false science’ – says prof. Szamatowicz, the pioneer of IVF treatment in Poland.

NaProTechnology has been developed by dr Thomas Hilgers, an American gynaeclologis from the Pope Paul Vi Institute in Omaha, Nebraska USA. The method is based principally on observations of the woman’s fertility cycle. In infertility treatment is uses all the tools on offer in modern medicine except for extracorporeal fertilization such as IVF. The creator of the method has been nominated a member of the Papal Academy of Life and the Church strongly endorses the use of NaProTechnology.

‘It has a success rate of approx. 44%. That is much more than IVF techniques which are in use, where the pregnancy rate is approx. 26%. Some of the fetuses, however, are miscarried or can not develop further and the live birth rate is estimated to be 18 – 19 % – said Archbishop Życiński at a meeting at KUL entitled ‘ John Paul II and the new culture of life’ on Thursday.

‘That is accurate’, confirms the obstetrician gynaecologist. Dr Maciej Barczentewicz, a member of the Bioethics Committee of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. Barczentewicz intends to open a private clinic where he will treat infertility by NaProTechnology in Lublin in September.

“The treatment program spans about 18 months,” Barczentewicz explains. First the married couples go through training which comprises 8 meetings in a year. The cost of the training is approx. 1000 pln. Then the patient schedules consultations every three to four months. Their cost is approx. 250pln.

“The rest depends on individual needs. Additional laboratory tests, hormonal assays and ultrasound scans may be necessary.” Barczentewicz adds. His clinic will be the second such clinic in Poland. The first one was opened in February in Białystok.

Prof. Marian Szamatowicz, the director of the Gynaecology Clinic of the Medical University in Białystok who carried out the first IVF procedure in Poland in 1987, strongly criticizes NaProTechnology. “I don’t know where the Archbishop obtained such statistics. In my opinion they are pure conjecture and NaProTechnology is false science. In certain situations, such as severe fallopian obstruction or endometriosis (endometrial tissue growth outside the endometrial cavity – ed.), it is practically hopeless.

According to Prof. Szamatowicz, modern fertility medicine and NaProTechnology also differ fundamentally in their attitudes to patients.

“For example, in severe fallopian tube damage, modern reproductive medicine will offer patients extracorporeal fertilization where success rates are as high as 30%. NaProTechnology will offer surgical treatment, after which the likelihood of achieving pregnancy is 3%,” asserts Prof. Szamatowicz. “In NaProTechnology, the woman is just an object, not a subject.”

Marcin Bielesz