Law professor's book explores infertility treatment experience

Resolve sponsors National Infertility Awareness Week, taking place April 22 to 28.

Also, having children is highly esteemed in American society. Yet people, especially women, who go to extraordinary lengths to conceive can be the object of suspicion if not scorn in popular culture.

"You turn on the television and you see these horrible stories of women who will do anything to have children," Madeira said. "A lot of the people I interviewed knew about infertility stereotypes, if only through the media, and they were angry about them."

The interviews Madeira conducted with patients were deeply detailed, lasting from two to five hours. Interviews with medical providers lasted over an hour. She also surveyed several hundred patients to confirm the findings. The result is not only reliable data about infertility but countless stories about individuals' and couples' experiences, and the stories are at the heart of the book.

A key focus of "Baby Steps" is the informed consent forms that patients must read and sign. Contrary to what many scholars believe, she found that patients do read the forms and understand them. But they view the forms as cold and formal, not a key feature of treatment.

What is an important feature, Madeira found, is the doctor-patient relationship. If patients form positive and trusting relationships with their health care providers, she said, reading and signing the forms becomes a secondary task. And the quality of the relationship has a strong effect on patients' emotions, regardless of the success of treatment.

Madeira said that imposing strict informed-consent requirements is another way that law and policy define infertility treatment as extraordinary and suggest women lack the capacity to make responsible decisions about medical care.

"If we assume people undergoing things like in vitro fertilization cannot consent, what about all the other medical procedures?" she said. "Because medicine is never without emotion."