"THERE is nothing in the medical-school training that prepares
you for this." Deborah Bowman, a Professor of Medical Ethics, might
be justly accused of understatement here, as the case that she and
a panel of other experts were discussing on Inside the Ethics
Committee (Radio 4, Thursday of last week) might have taxed
the imagination of the most ingenious of textbook authors.
Rosemary is an inspiring woman. She has won a swimming silver at
the Paralympics; she maintains an active life; and this despite her
suffering from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a condition that affects her
muscle and bone growth, and entails a long list of secondary
problems. But these are as nothing compared to the list of
complications that might arise if she pursues her dream of becoming
a mother - particularly if this involves IVF treatment.
I stopped writing at blood clots and feeding tubes. And then
there was the challenge of how Rosemary was to look after the child
if her treatment was successful. Notwithstanding her impressive
optimism, it came as no real surprise that the NHS turned her down
But this story does not end there; for Rosemary happened to win
a free cycle of IVF treatment from a private clinic that was
advertising on the internet. You would think that that deserved a
slot on Inside the Ethics Committee in itself, and even
the most ardent defenders of the private medical market must wince
at the thought. But, happily, all the nay-sayers were proved wrong,
and Rosemary gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Maria. The
obstetrician in charge summed up the feelings of many of the
professionals involved: "I rarely lose sleep over patients . . .
but I was hugely relieved when [Rosemary and Maria] were no longer
From a situation where an indi-vidual appears to want a baby too
much, to a society which, until recently, appeared not to value
babies enough: orphanages in Romania were a notorious symbol of the
CeauŞescu regime, attracting not only prospective parents from the
West, but also charity workers such as Tessa Dunlop.
In Crossing Continents (Radio 4, Thursday of last
week), Dunlop returned to one of the orphanages in northern Moldova
where she had worked, asking some awkward questions of the Orthodox
Church there. Since CeauŞescu's fall, the Church in Romania has
flourished in the most astonishing way. It is estimated that a new
church is built in Romania every three days - the most ambitious of
which is a new cathedral in Bucharest.
Whether this is symbolic of a justified reappropriation of the
public space by a resurgent Church, or of a dastardly alliance
between the temporal and spiritual realms depends on whom you ask.
But what is clear from Dunlop's report is that the Church did
little of practical value to alleviate the suffering in the
orphanages where she worked, preferring instead to focus on
establishing a reassuring presence on the big political stage.
All this building costs money, of course; which is why the going
rate for a patriarchal appearance in your province is a cool
€25,000. Nice work if you can get it.