Reproductive Endocrinology

Leggo My Embryo: It’s Not a Frozen Waffle, but a Potential Person

May 11, 2015 • By

Endocrinologists are very familiar with Sofia Vergara, who is the Spokeswoman for a major brand of levothyroxine sodium, after her total thyroidectomy for thyroid cancer:

But her thyroid gland is not the only thing that’s out of her body.  She’s making bigger news in an unusual reproductive ethics case surrounding ownership of frozen embryos she created with her ex-fiancee, Nick Loeb. Recently, the issue aired on the Today Show:

The law is clear that embryos are not legal persons, even when created by celebrities. Personhood occurs at birth. But there is such a thing as “embryo patienthood.” This is a concept that grew out of the “fetal patienthood” framework developed by bioethicist Lawrence McCullough and OBGYN, Frank Chervenak.

So what is the moral status of frozen embryos? It all depends on whether they are patients.  McCullough and Chervenak assert that patienthood status is determined by the parents. If the embryos are intended to be future children, they are patients to which physicians owe beneficent-based obligations. If they are not presented as patients, they do not need to be morally considered.

But what happens when paternal and maternal interests clash? When Dad says the embryos are patients, and Mom says they are not? Reproductive endocrinologists need to ensure their couples have clear Advance Directives before creating potential persons. In the same way that we advocate for Advance Directives for End of Life decisions to avoid family conflicts over dying patients, we need Advance Directives for Beginning of Life decisions, too.


Childhood Obesity and National Security: Widespread Consequences

May 11, 2015 • By

Our young adults are “Not the Very Model of a Major General” because they are too fat. A disturbing report, “Too Fat, Frail, and Out of Breath to Fight”,  prepared by a retired Major General, General and Admiral in the U.S. Military, and funded by the non-profit group, Mission Readiness Minnesota, breaks bad news. It provides us with the stark consequences of the last two decades of the childhood obesity epidemic.  For any pediatric endocrinologist, the medical statistics may be familiar — especially for those who frequently see patients with BMIs over 40. But the epidemic has now created a national security problem for our all-volunteer military.

You can access the report here:

It concludes:

  • Nearly one in three young Americans is too overweight to serve.
  • > 60 percent of non-deployed active duty service members experience a sprain, stress fracture, or other musculoskeletal injury each year due in part to years of low calcium intake, lack of long-term exercise habits and/or excess weight. The military is spending billions treating these injuries among active duty personnel and veterans.
  • In Minnesota alone: 69 percent of young adults cannot serve in the military; 10% of young adults has asthma, which disqualifies them from service, but which is linked to obesity.

Bioethicist, Art Caplan, had this to say about the report:

Given the state of international conflicts, the U.S. Military may need to call upon pediatric endocrinologists, above all others, to serve their country by telling schools, once and for all, what to serve our children. In the meantime, an all-volunteer military appears to be unsustainable if our kids don’t slim down.