Lesley Brown: a Pioneer in IVF

The death of Lesley Brown, the first mother to conceive using in vitro fertilization and deliver a healthy baby—a girl, Louise--sparked a number of retrospectives on the birth of IVF. Lesley Brown struggled for nine years to conceive naturally, only to be diagnosed with bilateral fallopian tube obstruction. She was referred to Dr. Patrick Steptoe in 1976, a forerunner in the field of gynecological laparoscopy, and told there was a procedure she could try to become pregnant. With Lesley’s determination and the dedication of her doctors, IVF was born.

The first successful IVF procedure in 1978
Dr. Steptoe had already begun using laparoscopy, small incisions with cameras guiding his work, to collect ova from infertile volunteers and was collaborating with Robert Edwards, embryologist, to develop in vitro fertilization into a viable option for infertile couples. Their first attempt resulted in a tubal pregnancy, and they began to lose confidence, discouraged by colleagues.

However, on November 10th, 1977, Steptoe and Edwards tried again. Steptoe performed a laparoscopic procedure on Lesley Brown, retrieving a single mature egg. Her husband John donated his sperm for the experiment, and under the direction of Robert Edwards the egg was fertilized in a lab. A few days later, the flourishing embryo was placed into Lesley’s uterus, and the pregnancy held. Within a few short months the media began to swarm; an otherwise infertile woman was pregnant! On July 25, 1978 Louise Brown, 5 pounds 12 ounces, blond hair, and blue eyes, became the “World’s first test-tube arrival.” (IVF1) A few years later, Lesley was able to conceive again using the same procedure and delivered another healthy baby girl.

The overall success rate of ART procedures today is 57% bringing this method very close to success rates of natural conception. (ASRM)  IVF is now a mainstream clinical practice giving couples hope for family formation. The pace of medical and technological advancements today increases the possibilities of assisted reproductive medicine to include infertile couples and non-traditional family formation. Unfortunately, lawmakers struggle to stay apace of the rapid development of technologies—making it more important than ever for couples to obtain experienced and effective legal counsel when undertaking family formation via ART.

Thank you Brown family for sharing your lives.  As we remember IVF pioneer Lesley Brown, it’s important to appreciate the controversy she faced and the triumph she achieved.

“I felt sad when I heard [Lesley passed away],” says [Janice] Evans, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  “Think about the courage and persistence she must have had.  She was a real trail blazer. As were Steptoe and Edwards…. If the three of them hadn’t been so determined there would have been a big gap for the many couples who struggle with infertility.” (MSNBC)

In the 70’s, in vitro fertilization was so experimental that many people mocked Steptoe and Edwards’ efforts. “BBC produced a television program about cell fusion and in-vitro fertilization which opened with a picture of the atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshima.” 

During Lesley’s first pregnancy, she was bombarded by curious reporters. Her medical team even scheduled the c-section at night to avoid interruptions. The general public seemed to have mixed emotions about the new technology, but virtually no one at the time recognized this extraordinary woman and these humble doctors as trailblazers for reproductive medicine. Lesley’s IVF success spawned experiments around the world, and over the next decade success rates skyrocketed. “IVF babies now make up a measurable percentage of the total births in developed countries. Some of these children, now grown to adulthood, have begun to have their own children, IVF's second generation.” (IVF1)

Resources:

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
MIESHA COWART
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.

Kim
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
Paralegal

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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