Why children can't be a convenience purchase
Starting a family is a major decision. Couples must take into account a number of considerations, such as their working lifestyles and whether they are willing to sacrifice the little free time they have left for the sake of parenting. In Hong Kong, where both men and women must work in an increasingly competitive job market, the decision to have children is an even more difficult one to make. And so it should be. Taking up the responsibility too easily could jeopardise the happiness and health of a new life.
But in Hong Kong, the entrepreneurial spirit is such that new solutions are always being found. In the health care industry, it is now easier to buy antibiotics, easier to lose weight without exercising, and even easier to give birth under predetermined circumstances. Caesarean sections now make up 62 per cent of births in private hospitals, three times the number in other developed economies. Hong Kong women are increasingly resorting to this procedure for convenience and sometimes even for fung shui reasons.
Now doctors say that some Hong Kong career women wish to 'save time' in raising a family, and therefore request twins during in vitro fertilisation; this, they say, accounts for some of the 70 per cent increase in the birth of twins since 1996. Queues for IVF treatment have increased from seven months two years ago, to 18 months. Given the facility for Caesarean sections, and the financial incentives for doctors to adhere to the uninformed demands of the patient, an unhealthy set menu could become available for the purchase of a family. IVF treatment has no doubt brought joy to couples who would ordinarily have been denied the chance to raise families due to genuine medical reasons. But it must be administered with reservation and for genuine medical reasons, or else a generation of children will have come into this world because they were an easily available product that did not cause too much inconvenience. Imagine the day when the twin children ask what made them twins, and the mother responds: 'To avoid having to lose weight twice.'