Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Carl Wood

Last night, when I was looking for a doctor to write about, I came across Carl Wood. He got my attention, because Lord Wiki said some of his endeavors were controversial. I figured then that Mr. Wood might be an interesting subject to explore.

I didn't read much of Lord Wiki's entry on Wood, because I wanted to save my learning for tomorrow (today). But I did see that he did in-vitro fertilization stuff. 

Didn't the first in-vitro baby happen in Australia? 

Nope. Lord Wiki says I'm totally wrong.

The first in-vitro baby was Louise Brown, and she was from England.  But you know what...If her ancestor had stolen some fabric, she might have been Australian instead. So, there you go.

I'm going to read the rest of Lord Wiki's entry on Carl Wood.

He was born on May 28, 1929...somewhere in Australia.

He died on September 23, 2011; not too long ago.

Wood attended Wesley College in Melbourne. 

For his University education, Wood went to the University of Melbourne.  After that, he did some traveling. He worked in New York at the Rockefeller Institute, and he worked in London at Chelsea Hospital.

Then he came back to Australia and became the Foundation Professor and Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Monash University.

I'm guessing a Foundation Professor is one who is there from the beginning?

Lord Wiki has a list of Wood's achievements. I don't feel like listing them all. It's the first this and the first that; all to do with in vitro stuff. Or we can abbreviate it to IVF. 

I'm trying to fit in his accomplishments with the Louise Brown story. 

Lord Wiki says Wood's team was responsible for the first IVF pregnancy. But did the pregnancy go to term? Or did it end tragically?  

Well, Lord Wiki just answered my question. He says Louise Brown was born in 1978. The pregnancy that Wood's team was responsible for was in 1973. So that one must have not worked out.

After Louise Brown, Wood and his team performed some more miraculous things. This includes using a frozen embryo and the use of donor eggs.

Lord Wiki says Wood's most important achievement was the use of hormones and drugs to stimulate the ovaries. Or something like that. It kind of goes over my head. Sorry.

Carl Wood wrote many books. I wonder if any of them are readily available. And are they books geared towards anyone interested, or are they mostly just for medical professionals?

Lord Wiki says Wood is known as the father and/or grandfather of IVF. 

He died from Alzheimer's. 

Wood's most recent book was published in 2001. It's called Sexual Positions: An Australian View. Interesting! Does Australia really have a unique viewpoint on that subject?  Is the book a sex guide in general, or more of sex guide in terms of procreation?

I'm looking at Google. It doesn't look like the book is readily available.  I see one review of the book. It wasn't too positive. I think though that the book is actually edited by Wood and not written by him. It's a collection of different essays/articles.  

I just realized Lord Wiki never told me why Wood is controversial. Maybe because of the controversy in IVF in general?

This PBS website lists the pros and cons of IVF.

The biggest pro is probably the fact that it helps infertile couples. The world would probably be a better place if infertile couples adopted a child. But I think a lot of us want a child made from our own genes. If I was infertile, would we have adopted?  I'd like to think yes. But the answer would have probably been no. Or the answer would be YES, but only after we exhausted all other possibilities.

The things that people worried about with IVF is that it would destroy the nuclear family.  Instead of getting married, people would just make babies in labs. And that does happen sometimes. But we still have a whole bunch of nuclear families in the world.

Some just didn't like the idea because they felt it was unnatural and against their religious beliefs. I wonder if a lot of people still believe that.

The PBS says when Louise Brown was born, it silenced a lot of critics. Some were expecting some kind of monster. But she was a normal and happy baby.

The last paragraph on the page is very interesting. I won't quote the whole thing. If you're interested, you can read it for yourself. But basically, it talks about how IVF has become mainstream and most people aren't bothered by it.  It talks about how people are often resistant to new technology at first, but then society accepts it. 

One group that is still against IVF is the Catholic Church. I didn't know that. 

This Catholic online magazine has some information about that.  It says the Pope advises against IVF. However, the article if from 2012, and they're speaking of the past Pope. The new one seems to be a bit more liberal. I wonder what's his opinion on IVF. 

Interesting. One of the reasons IVF is not allowed is the sperm is obtained by masturbation. And that's still not allowed. Really? I would have thought they'd relax that rule a bit.

The other problem the Catholic Church has, is that with IVF not all embryos become babies. Things don't work out, and they're discarded, or frozen. And that would go with the whole anti-abortion thing.

I'm trying to find information about Pope Francis and IVF. This website has a Catholic person asking a rabbi his opinion on Pope Francis pushing people to have children. They say,  What's your opinion about recent statements by Pope Francis imploring married couples to have children or they will be bitter and lonely in old age? I found his comments hurtful and offensive to the many married Catholic couples who struggle with infertility, or due to other constraints may not be able to have children.

That's a little unfair. They make a rule against IVF, which could help infertile couples have children. But then they make couples feel bad for not having children.

The rabbis answer confuses me. He says he's going to defend the Pope.  I guess because religious people should stick together?  But then his answer is fairly respectful towards people who choose not to have children and those who choose to go the IVF route.

What the rabbi is not respectful of is people's feelings. At the end he says,  We should limit what we describe as "hurtful." My standing up for the pope and for procreation need not be hurtful to you, and I'm truly sorry if it is.

Who is he to say what's offensive and what's not?  The rabbi is being very invalidating.

Here's an obituary article about Carl Wood. There's a photo of him, and Lord Wiki had a photo too. Wood is handsome, in a Dr. Who type of way.

I totally have Dr. Who in my brain lately.

But really.  In the photo on this obituary, Wood looks like the result you'd get if you combined David Tennant with Christopher Eccleston.

The obituary says the mother of the first IVF baby miscarried at three months. I wonder what happened to her. Did she try again after Louise Brown was born?

Australia's first IVF baby was named Candice Reed. She was born in 1980—two years after Louise Brown.

Here's an article about Candice Reed. Carl Wood isn't mentioned in the article. I don't know what to make of that.

Back to the obituary....

There's some biographical information.

Wood's father was a gynecologist.  Wood followed in his dad's footsteps. Was he pressured at all to do so. Or was it his choice?

As for London and New York, he spent eight years in London; only a few months in New York.

Wood did other work besides IVF stuff. For example, he helped with the treatment of ectopic pregnancy and damaged fallopian tubes.

The obituary says the Australian government didn't provide any grants to Wood. He got research money through his own private practice, and from the Ford foundation in the US.

There's more here about the controversy regarding Wood's work. People weren't happy about his work with frozen embryos.  He was accused of playing god.

But the editorial says despite this, he was well-liked by his patients and colleagues.  They say he was nice and more interested in helping people than obtaining fame. That's cool.

This sentence I don't understand. When teaching students to do pelvic examinations, he employed professional models who were relaxed about it, and this in turn made the students more relaxed and more sympathetic to patients.

Well,  I might understand it. I guess it's more precise to say I disagree with it. How does working with relaxed patients make you more sympathetic to other patients? I think doctors need more practice working with NON-relaxed patients. Because I'm one of them, and in most cases, my experiences have been awful.  I wish these doctors understood that ordering me to relax in a stern voice does not actually make me feel more relaxed.

There's some personal stuff here that's interesting.

Wood married a nurse named Judith. That marriage lasted thirty years.  He got married again, and that marriage ended in divorce too. No, I know. That's not very interesting. But what IS interesting is when Wood was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he moved back in with Judith. There's something really sweet about that. Did they fall in love again? Did the love never die in the first place? Or maybe they were just really good friends?

The ABC website has a transcript of their 2004 interview with Wood.  And Judith is there too. So I can hopefully get more information about their relationship.

At the time of the interview, Wood had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

The ABC site says they didn't approach Wood to talk to him about his illness. Wood contacted them with the idea that hearing about his experience might help others.

They talk about Wood's father. He was well-read and very religious. And he was very nice.

Judith Wood says they lived in Canterbury. Is she talking about the UK? Or is their a Canterbury in Melbourne?

Lord Wiki says there is a Canterbury suburb in Melbourne. Kylie and Danni Minogue are from there.

Wood says his father did want him to become a doctor, but didn't push him into it.

Just by wanting something for our kids, we're pushing them a bit. I mean if we express that want. If we keep it a secret, they might not even know. But wishing is a gentle push and very different from forcing or manipulating someone into doing something.

Judith Wood says it was Carl's mother who was more of the pusher.

Wood liked parties.

His mother seems a bit harsh Not only was she pushy, but she wasn't very nice to Judith. Judith says,
I think she would have actually disapproved of anybody who Carl had an eye for. She literally didn't recognise our engagement and didn't recognise me. So we postponed our marriage until we went to London and we were married in London. She sounds like a bitch. Though this information is coming from the daughter-in-law. They're might be another side to the story.

Or maybe not.

I hope I'm a nice mother-in-law.

Wood is asked by the interviewer why he was so interested in helping women with their gynecological issues? His answer doesn't really fit the question. I'm not sure if he just didn't know why he had an interest in female body parts, and he's being invasive. Or was he getting confused because of Alzheimer's?

His answer: I always had a situation where I liked to get things done. I enjoy life. I enjoy trying to change things. I'd like to try to improve things. So anything in my... I suppose, my little brain...

You can apply that answer to many professions: Anything medical, a car mechanic, a computer scientist, an Imagineer at Disney World....

It seems Wood was a bit of a Ladies man. So he didn't just like studying their genitals and fixing them. He liked deriving pleasure from them too.

They explain why Wood's mother disapproved of Judith. She wanted someone of better social standing for her son. And one of the woman she had her eyes on was Heather Menzies.  I just Googled to make sure she's who I thought she was. And yes. She is the daughter of Prime Minister Menzies.

Because of the social-climbing suffocating mother, Judith and Carl were weary about leaving London and coming home to Melbourne.

Here's some insight into why the Judith and Carl marriage didn't work out. Judith says, I felt excluded from his work. I felt intellectually downgraded because Carl was so attracted by people who were clever and intellectual and that sort of thing and I felt that I wasn't.

That makes sense to me. I've felt like that before...not really intellectually inferior. I think I'm at least equally smart to Tim and the people in his life. But I remember feeling different from the female colleagues he seemed to admire. Sometimes I had that feeling, Well, I know you'd rather be with people like them. Maybe it was women who had jobs, were very social, drank at parties, etc. There was that feeling of why would someone like you want to hang out with a quiet non-drinking nerdy homebody like me?

Judith says her husband loved all the publicity. She had a hard time with it. Jealous, I suppose? And that can be unfair? But on the other hand, some people who obtain fame can become a bit too narcissistic.

Carl was a workaholic who loved the fame...which actually contradicts the obituary I read before. But yeah. I think it would be difficult to have that type of man as a husband.

If I'm understanding things correctly, it was Judith who first noticed Wood was having memory problems. And it was she that pushed him to seek help.  So I guess they were still in some type of friendship or relationship before the diagnosis.  I wonder what their divorce was like. Did they immediately part as friends? Or did they despise each other for awhile, but then those feelings calmed down and became friendship?

Judith Wood explains why she's become her ex-husband's carer. She says she's doing it for her family, not just him. And she felt she had to do it. She didn't want him not to be cared for. So I guess it was a case of there not being anyone else to take on the responsibility.

The interview is very sad, because I can see now that the Alzheimer's had definitely effected Wood's mind back in 2004.  Every so often one of his answers will seems like that of a healthy normal person. But often they seem to be from someone who wasn't all there anymore.

I guess there's hope. If scientists can find ways for infertile people to make babies, it seems likely scientists will also be able to someday help people with Alzheimer's.