The stuff of nightmares: Retrievals podcast reviewed

It is the stuff of nightmares, or a queasily dystopian film plot. A woman is undergoing a surgical procedure in a top-rated US clinic. The aim is ‘egg retrieval’, a process which collects eggs from the ovaries for use in IVF. It involves nerves and hope, long needles and pain – except the patient has been promised that the latter will be minimal, thanks to an injection of fentanyl, a powerful opioid. The pain certainly isn’t minimal, however. It’s excruciating. When the woman says how much it hurts, the nurse tops up the dose, and then says the patient has now received the maximum allowed. There might be a touch

Letters: Jeremy Clarke was an example to us all

Goodbye, Jeremy Each week I opened The Spectator at Low Life in part to read that brilliant column and, more recently, to see how Jeremy Clarke was coping with his deteriorating health. Always hoping the column would be there; that he had, despite excruciating pain, penned us another. Like very many of his regular admiring readers, I had found the last two weeks disturbingly sad and last week we learned that he has died and is free at last from his suffering. As an oncologist, during a career treating thousands of patients, at first ones with prostate and other urological cancers, and later ones with breast cancer, I have seen

Modernity is making you sterile

Cassava is a woody shrub native to South America. For people living in drought-prone tropical regions, it is a godsend: delicious, calorie-dense, and highly productive. The indigenous peoples of the Americas who first cultivated cassava are reliant on it and have developed an arduous, days-long process of preparation that involves scraping, grating, washing, and boiling the plant before it is eaten. At the beginning of the 17th century, the Portuguese introduced cassava to the Old World. But they did not import the ancient methods of processing, assuming that indigenous people were wasting their time. Progress swats away benevolent traditions because the usefulness of traditions can be subtle and hard to

Our long, vulnerable childhoods may be the key to our success

The central question in Brenna Hassett’s book, put simply, is: why are our children so very useless for so very long? Or: ‘What is the possible adaptive value of teenagers?’ If we consider maturity, or adulthood, to be the point at which an animal can play its own role in the evolutionary process – i.e. have its own babies – why is it that we have evolved to mature so slowly; and, even when mature, to delay having children until many years after we’re first physically capable of doing so? The framework in which Hassett sets out to answer this is one to do with investment and return on investment.

Will Italy’s Euro win lead to a baby boom?

Could Italy’s triumph on Sunday result not just in a trophy for the azzuri, but a baby boom for a nation with one of Europe’s lowest fertility rates? The anecdotal evidence would support this theory. Nine months after Iceland beat England in a Euro 2016 match, it experienced an unprecedented increase in births. This was the first time the nation had ever qualified for a major European tournament, and close to 10 per cent of its 300,000 population watched the game in person. Spain’s birth rate also shot up 16 per cent nine months after Barcelona won the 2009 Champions League. Yet a new paper from Luca Fumarco and Francesco