Thirty-five years ago, in July 1978, Louise Joy Brown was born at Oldham General Hospital. Famously, she was the world’s first person conceived via in vitro fertilisation. Now there are something like 5 million people worldwide who were conceived this way.
Last week, I wrote an obituary for the Lancet of Robert Edwards, who developed the first successful protocol for IVF along with Patrick Steptoe. Researching the obituary I was told time and again how those who helped bring about this remarkable advance were motivated by compassion for infertile people.
“He had a great desire to help humanity, and a feeling you had to prevent suffering. And even when things were going wrong, he could always laugh about it”, one eminent doctor recalled of Edwards.
I mention this compassion as an introduction to something else I found in my research — a video in the Wellcome Collection of Louise Brown’s birth. The unemotional efficiency of the procedure of the caesarean is confronting. I have never seen a caesarean performed and watching this made me wonder how different the process is currently.
The video is here on the Wellcome site.