Louise Brown, the world's first test-tube baby, turns 25 today, and it certainly seems like a reason to celebrate. Brown is by all accounts a healthy, normal young woman, and her birth opened the door for a million or so childless couples worldwide to fulfill their dreams of having a family.
But once the final chorus of "Happy Birthday" fades, we should take a hard look at in vitro fertilization and the fertility business it has spawned. It's not just a matter of helping the hopeless, it's also about the dubious claims of a for-profit industry — that it can ensure healthier babies, that we can do a better job than nature when it comes to engineering life.
For starters, we need to remember that IVF pioneers — including British researcher Robert Edwards and physician Patrick Steptoe, who crafted the embryo that became Louise Brown — were essentially running human experiments, with little oversight, on a vulnerable patient population.
Although so far most IVF babies seem normal — that is, they have medical problems in about the same numbers as...