A Child at All Costs

Length: 60 minutes  (ARTE, 1 Feb. 2005, 8:45 p.m.)
One out of 6 couples in Germany waits in vain for progeny. More and more women and men are banking on modern reproductive medicine so that they can still have a child. The first German test-tube baby was born 20 years ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of children have been “fathered” in test tubes using methods like in vitro fertilisation, methods that are legal in this country and are financed to a certain extent by health insurers. Yet when these attempts fail and the desire for a child of their own becomes too imperative, couples in Germany increasingly resort to techniques prohibited by law, for example ovum donation or preimplantation genetic diagnostic testing. They travel to nearby European countries to circumvent such regulation.

Susanne and Hans desperately want a child. They have wanted one for years. As Susanne is unable to become pregnant in a natural way, she decides to give in vitro fertilisation a try. After the seventh attempt, Susanne was finally pregnant. And once again, she lost the child. But the two of them don’t want to give up. They take a trip to Belgium to improve their chances. At the university hospital in Brussels, couples desiring a child are allowed to have the genetic make-up of fertilised cells tested via PID/PGD for the possibility of genetic damage: a method prohibited by law in Germany. Ines and Christoph already have 10 attempts at in vitro fertilisation behind them. They too refuse to simply resign themselves to the situation: The wish for a child of their own is too overpowering. Meanwhile Ines is 45. Their last try for the time being takes the two of them to a fertility clinic in Cape Town, South Africa. Here they would like to give ovum donation a try. Once again, in Germany a method prohibited by law. For Michaela and Ralf, ovum donation is again the last possibility open to them to have a child. Though in this case they are still young, for years they have been trying to have a child, but with no success. Michaela, who already has 8 miscarriages behind her, suffers from a rare hereditary disease. They travel to the Czech Republic so that they can at last get a bit closer to seeing their wish come true. In the end, are these 3 couples finally going to have the wish they long for the most be fulfilled?
Film-maker Valentin Thurn employs a great deal of tact and consideration in pursuing what is often a hard path for the 3 couples on their way to the child they all want so much. He explains the most recent status research has to offer, throws light on the various methods of treatment for fertilisation in the laboratory, and asks pointed questions about side effects. He interviews the operators of clinics in the Czech Republic and South Africa. For them, the rigid legislation in Germany signifies a pleasant rise in profits, because in the meantime large sums are being demanded from couples desperate to have children. Valentin Thurn offers an in-depth look at the status quo of in vitro fertilisation in Germany, and in the process does one thing first and foremost: For these couples who wish nothing more in the whole world than a child, he listens to what they have to say.

Video (approx. 10 min.)

A film by Valentin Thurn
Camera: Hans Hausmann, Rainer Friedrich
Sound: Eric Ullrich, Lars Gümpel
Editor: Thomas Stange
Executive Producer: Susanne Mertens
A Telekult production commissioned by ZDF in co-operation with ARTE

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