Genetically ‘male’ woman gives birth to twins. Great, but did she have to?

Published: February 9, 2015
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The 32-year-old ‘woman’ had a rare hormonal conditional where she has external female characteristics and appearance but non-functioning ovaries and ‘mostly male chromosomes’. PHOTO: REUTERS

A few days back, I read about a medical miracle that occurred in the Indian city of Meerut. I understand that a ‘genetically male’ woman has given birth to twins.

A 32-year-old ‘woman’ had a rare hormonal conditional where she looks like a woman but is ‘almost’ a man. She did not attain puberty and has never menstruated. Her uterus was underdeveloped, her ovaries were non-functional and that she had an unpronounceable condition called “XY gonadal dysgenesis “(whew that sure was a mouthful). In short, ‘her’ body was not designed for natural conception or to hold a nine month pregnancy. She went through a series of complicated procedures over a period of three years to make this possible. Embryos were developed with donor eggs (they were not her own) plus her husband’s sperm and implanted in  her uterus, which was ‘built’ or ‘strengthened’ surgically. I have very little knowledge of terms like ovum, zygote, chromosomal study, infantile uterus, endocrinal treatment to elaborate on but I know for sure that’s its cerebral and phrenic (something to do with intelligence).

I am happy to note that her ‘husband’ supported her in this decision.

Dr Sunil Jindal, the infertility specialist who administered the treatment, said,

“This is something similar to a male delivering twins.”

I am sure it took some medical geniuses and a hefty sum of money to make her dreams of having a child come true. Mentions of this marvel will be chiselled in bronze in medical encyclopaedias worldwide. Generations of students will look back and read about this with awe and wonder. Eons later, people will still equate the team who made this possible with Charaka or Shushruta (ancient physicians from the Subcontinent). The doctors will earn awards, no doubt, and will be felicitated worldwide. They might even win Nobel Prizes.

What I do not understand is, was all this required in the first place?  Could ‘she’ not have accepted gracefully (not resigned to) her fate and just adopted a child from one of the thousands of orphanages that exist today?

It’s totally understandable if she might not want to spend on ‘outside’ blood and wanted her ‘own’, but I am sure she could have found a needy family from her own community who would have given her one of their own for some money. For the money the very-much-in-love couple spent on treatments, she could have fed scores of orphanages year long.

I know this might sound harsh, but she must have undergone these painful procedures, the emotional and physical trauma, the expectations, the hopes, the disappointments… to prove to the world that she was not ‘barren’ (excuse my use of such a strong, rustic, cruel, derogatory term) and ‘won’ in the end but was the money and time well spent ? Was it absolutely necessary to bring two more souls onto this, already overcrowded, planet? I understand that this may be a question personal to the parents, but as a citizen of this world, I believe I am forced to ask those parents thinking of adopting this path. Do the orphans of this world deserve no life, love or future? Should we not look after what we have first and then plan ahead?

I accept that it is a triumph of technology, a true medical achievement, but does it have to be just about technology all the time?

I have my doubts.

Supriya Arcot

Supriya Arcot

She works for a software house and is a mother of eight-year-old twins.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.