An Immaculate Misconception – Sex in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Carl Djerassi



Title: An Immaculate Misconception – Sex in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Author: Carl Djerassi

Typology: Drama

Language: English

Year: 2003 (first edition 2000)

Publisher: Imperial College Press

ISBN:1-86094-248-2 (pbk)

Synopsis: Impregnation of a woman’s egg by a fertile man in normal intercourse requires tens of millions of sperm – as many as 100 million in one ejaculate. . Successful fertilization with one singe sperm is a total impossibility, considering that a man ejaculating even 1-3 million sperm is functionally infertile. But in 1992, Gianpiero Palermo, Hubert Joris, Paul Devroey and André C. Van Steirteghem from the University of Brussels published their sensational paper in Lancet, 340, 17 (1992), in which they announced the successful fertilization of a human egg with a single sperm by direct injection under the microscope, followed by reinsertion of the egg into the woman’s uterus. ICSI – the accepted acronym for “intracytoplasmic sperm injection” – has now become the most powerful tool for the treatment of male infertility: over 10 000 ICSI babies have already been born since 1992.

This is the factual background of ICSI. But because “An Immaculate Misconception” is a play, all characters and events, though not the actual science, are fictional – especially Dr. Melanie Laidlaw, ICSI’s putative inventor. ICSI’s ethical problems, however, remain even after the curtain has dropped.