Fa­ther of in vitro fer­til­iza­tion in the US dies

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BROCK VER­GAKIS

Dr. Howard Jones, who pi­o­neered in vitro fer­til­iza­tion in the United States, died Fri­day at a Vir­ginia hos­pi­tal sur­rounded by fam­ily.

Eastern Vir­ginia Med­i­cal School said Jones died of res­pi­ra­tory fail­ure. He was 104.

The work of Jones and his late wife, Dr. Ge­orgeanna Jones, at EVMS led to the na­tion’s first child born as a re­sult of in vitro fer­til­iza­tion in 1981. Since then, more than 5 mil­lion births have stemmed from in vitro fer­til­iza­tion around the world.

The Jones In­sti­tute for Re­pro­duc­tive Medicine at EVMS is named in honor of the Jone­ses. For sev­eral years, fam­i­lies who had chil­dren with the in­sti­tute’s help were in­vited to join the cou­ple at a Mother’s Day cel­e­bra­tion. Photos from the events show the Jone­ses sur­rounded by hun­dreds of fam­i­lies. Since the in­sti­tute’s cre­ation, about 4,000 ba­bies have been born through in vitro fer­til­iza­tion with the clinic’s as­sis­tance.

“The IVF suc­cess was an in­cred­i­ble ac­com­plish­ment, not just for him per­son­ally but for our in­sti­tu­tion and for the pro­fes­sion of medicine,” Richard Ho­man, pres­i­dent and provost of EVMS and dean of the School of Medicine, said in a state­ment.

Jones con­tin­ued to keep of­fice hours at the in­sti­tute even af­ter he was 100. Over his life, he au­thored 12 books, in­clud­ing a memoir about in vitro fer­til­iza­tion that was pub­lished last fall ti­tled “In Vitro Fer­til­iza­tion Comes to Amer­ica: Memoir of a Med­i­cal Break­through.”

Although in vitro fer­til­iza­tion is com­mon to­day, it was ini­tially met with re­sis­tance from some con­cerned about the ethics of “test tube” ba­bies. EVMS notes that the Vat­i­can reached out to the Jone­ses to help ad­vise Pope John Paul II in vitro fer­til­iza­tion af­ter the birth of the first IVF baby, El­iz­a­beth Jor­dan Carr, who is now a mother. In Novem­ber 1982, the cover of LIFE mag­a­zine was ded­i­cated to the “test-tube baby boom.”

In 1984, Jones helped cre­ate an ethics com­mit­tee un­der the Ameri- can Fer­til­ity So­ci­ety, which is now the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for Re­pro­duc­tive Medicine.

Jones was born the son of a physi­cian in Bal­ti­more. He worked at John Hop­kins Univer­sity for three decades be­fore com­ing to EVMS in 1978, five years af­ter the school opened. He left Johns Hop­kins af­ter reach­ing the manda­tory re­tire­ment age over the ob­jec­tions of his chil­dren, who wanted him and his wife to re­main in Bal­ti­more. He ar­rived in Nor­folk the same day the world’s first baby was born through in vitro fer­til­iza­tion in Eng­land. In his early years at EVMS, he de­vel­oped a tech­nique to in­duce the de­vel­op­ment of mul­ti­ple eggs in a woman, which was a ma­jor break­through.

“He and Dr. Ge­orgeanna rev­o­lu­tion­ized how we care for women with in­fer­til­ity prob­lems. Ev­ery­where you look around the world you can see Howard and Ge­orgeanna Jones in the fel­lows they trained, in the dis­cov­er­ies they made and in the count­less pa­tients they im­pacted,” Dr. Al­fred Abuhamad, one of Jones’ col­leagues at EVMS, said in a state­ment.

Jones is sur­vived by his three chil­dren and sev­eral grand­chil­dren.

AP

In this Dec. 28, 1981 file photo, Dr. Fred Wirth, left, talks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence as Dr. Howard Jones lis­tens dur­ing an an­nounce­ment of the birth of El­iz­a­beth Carr in Nor­folk, Vir­ginia.

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