Love, birthdays and the business of babies

By Laurie Devine

Let’s talk about love

In honour of Valentine’s Day, publications looked to McGill experts to explain the science behind love. “We’re talking about a complex emotion,” Alain Dagher, researcher at the Montreal Neurological Institute and associate professor of neurology, told a Canwest reporter. “It’s not just hunger or craving a cigarette. You’re adding a layer of complexity with cognition and psychology.” Chemistry professor Ariel Fenster, sought out by La Presse, asserted that lovemaking can keep you thin, protect your heart and even stave off the common cold. National Geographic held up psychology professor Karim Nader’s experiments on post-traumatic stress disorder as an example of how medicines could be created to downgrade the mental impact of heartbreak.

Celebrating three aquarians

Last week marked two bicentennials and one centennial for three famous men. Birthday twins Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln, both born on Feb. 12, 1809, each sparked revolutions that changed the world; McGill contributed to the worldwide celebrations with public Darwin Day lectures at the Redpath Museum and by showcasing the Joseph M. Nathanson Collection of Lincolniana, the lifelong passion of a late McGill alumni, at the McLennan Library. Both events were covered in all the major Quebec press, and further afield in USA Today and Wired.

Less celebrated was the birthday of a McGill man, born Feb. 14, 1909, who made a lasting contribution to Canadian literature. Abraham Moses (A.M.) Klein, came to McGill in 1926, majoring in classics, political science and economics. He later taught poetry at the university. A story on Klein in the Guardian newspaper claims that he was a crucial influence on many famous names: “Without A.M. Klein’s poetry and novels, there would have been no Leonard Cohen, Mordecai Richler, Irving Layton.” Harold Heft writes in The Gazette that Klein was “arguably Canada’s greatest poet… and more than any other poet, immortalized Montreal.” The Quebec Writers’ Federation’s annual poetry prize is named in his honour, and Endre Farkas’s play about Klein, The Haunted House, opens Feb. 19 at Montreal’s Segal Centre for Performing Arts.

Canada’s fertility laws flaccid

An Ontario woman’s website promotes her $18,000 pregnancy surrogate  services. Another Canadian surrogate-for-hire touts her embryos as “Grade A” and FDA approved. Such pregnancy for profit is illegal in Canada but Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, the federal agency meant to police the fertility industry, has remained silent since launching in 2006. Why? Health Canada has yet to empower it to license and inspect the booming baby business – an industry that, in the wake of a 60-year-old Calgary woman giving birth to twins and a California woman delivering octuplets, is increasingly controversial. “It’s not just disappointing, it’s really quite outrageous,” Abby Lippman, an epidemiologist at McGill and former chairwoman of the Canadian Women’s Health Network told the National Post. “Thirty years ago, we knew that the technology was outpacing the social and ethical analyses of what was happening. Everybody knew it had to be regulated…. Why is this so impossible?”