Back in May I posted an entry about a German couple who went to a fertility clinic to find out why they couldn't produce a child
. The reason: they hadn't realized that you first have to have sex in order to get pregnant. Supposedly they both came from very religious backgrounds and had never been taught about the birds and the bees. The clinic was said to be planning to conduct a survey to find out if there were other similarly clueless couples out there. This story was widely reported in the news, even though it seemed a little far-fetched, to say the least. At the time I noted that a case kind of like this had been reported in a medical journal
, but that the reason the couple didn't have sex was not because they didn't realize what they were supposed to do, but because the husband suffered from erectile dysfunction. I emailed the German clinic where the clueless couple was said to have been treated and finally received a reply confirming that the case of the clueless couple reported in the English-language media did derive from the case of the couple who didn't have sex for more mechanical reasons. Here's the email I received from the doctor:
Dear Alex Boese,
As one of the authors of the paper you asked for Prof Johannisson I would like to inform you, that in fact we treated such a couple. The problem wasn't that the couple had tried to get pregnant without having sexual intercourse - the reason for not having sexual intercourse was psychogenic erectile dysfunction in the male. They were aware of their problem and not treated with assisted reproductive techiques. We send them to a psychologist for counselling. The reason to publish this case report was to make doctors sensible for those problems. All other things, described in this paper on (1) the religious background and (2) a planned survey etc are not true and definitively not related to this case! May be, others have had a similiar case published which I am not aware of. Hope, this information helps you to put some light on the situation.
Priv. Doz. Dr. med. M. Ludwig
Zentrum für Hormon- und Stoffwechselerkrankungen,
gynäkologische Endokrinologie und Reproduktionsmedizin
So that settles that. There was a very small grain of truth to the story, but in its passage from a medical journal article to the Daily Mirror
and beyond, the story was improved quite a bit.