If you’re of a certain age, you might recall the birth of the world’s first in vitro-conceived (then called “test tube”) baby, Louise Brown of the UK. Now, it’s time to meet the first high-tech baby whose conception was paid for by Bitcoin, the online digital currency used by gamers and some merchants all over the world.
The news was broken by the Brea, California-based OB-GYN and fertility specialist Dr. C. Terence Lee. While of course it’s illegal to “buy” children, the unnamed baby was actually conceived by a frozen embryo transfer cycle that was paid for with bitcoins. Lee told CNN it's the first time he's aware of that anyone has paid for fertility treatments with Bitcoin.
Bitcoin was created during the last decade as a peer-to-peer, electronic cash system. It enables electronic transfers based on an open source cryptographic protocol, though it’s not managed by any central banking or financial company or authority. Users of the digital currency transfer it to one another over their computers, smartphones or other mobile devices directly, without routing it through a bank. Though it sounds a bit like Monopoly money to many, Bitcoin is actually traded on Wall Street, reaching an exchange rate high of $266 per bitcoin last month before dropping precipitously to $40. (It’s at about $100 as of today, June 14.)
The parents of the infant were not savvy about Bitcoin in the beginning; the transaction was made at the encouragement of Lee, who said the idea of a “common man’s” currency appealed to him. To encourage the couple to pay for the fertility treatments – their fourth course of treatments with Lee – he offered a 50-percent discount, which proved compelling to the couple.
Lee says he and the couple used a now-defunct exchange service in Australia, setting up an account with CryptoXChange using an international money transfer from their U.S. bank. Lee reportedly approached several patients to ask if they would consider using bitcoins for their fertility treatments if he offered a large discount. The parents of the male newborn were the first to accept.
Edited by Melissa Warten