I join Dr. Murtinger at the Swiss office for the IVF Centers Professor Zech. The Center bears the name of the founder, Dr. Zech, and his family is intimately involved in most aspects of the business. Dr. Murtinger, Dr. Zech’s son-in-law, chats with me in his spacious office suite in Niederuzwil, at the end of the day—or at least the end of the patient appointments. He’s planning to give an informational presentation that evening, but shows no signs of fatigue.
I’m visiting him today to find out more about his views and philosophy. The questions I’ve prepared fall by the wayside as he examines my brochure about Traditional Chinese Medicine and infertility. It’s addressed to women.
Dr. Murtinger launches into a passionate plea on the behalf of his male patients. Failure to conceive is often attributable to problems with male fertility (Male factor infertility is the sole cause of infertility in approximately 20% of infertile couples, with an additional 30% to 40% secondary to both male and female factors.) So why, he asks, does everything focus just on women? When I explain that women tend to be the ones to make appointments, he points out that the men feel excluded. He urges therapists and medical professionals to talk to them.
From there, it’s short hop and a skip to the subject of sperm versus ova. Eggs, he says, have the cellular matter, including enzymes which help repair DNA damage. Sperm are naked DNA, except for a thin cover. This makes sperm more vulnerable to damage. He’d like to see more research on the effects of free radicals on sperm numbers and motility, as well as more choices than vitamin therapy for low sperm counts. (TCM does offer herbal therapy, but it doesn’t help in every case.)
Speaking of sperm, and sperm counts, how much weight should a couple place on laboratory values anyway?
Murtinger points out that laboratory values never exist in isolation. It’s plain from listening to him, that he’s involved in the minute details of each case. (He also invites me to inform him of all pertinent details, should we happen to treat the same patient.). Murtinger stresses all factors have to be looked at and weighed against each other. He likes to be realistic, but positive.
If he could say one thing to his patients?
This turns out to be not one thing, but several thematically related statements. It’s plain Murtinger has a knack for the emotionally complex work of helping a patient with infertility. First, all available options are explored. Nothing is off the table. If one thing doesn’t work, there are always other options. (This is especially true of IVF Centers Professor Zech, as they maintain offices in India and Czechoslovakia, enabling them to offer a broader palette of services.) He wants the patient to not be stuck on a particular way, or particular idea, because there are always innovative things on the horizon. He also stresses that the entire process consists of a series of unfolding developments, which always lead to some kind of growth. This is especially important when the patient decides against taking additional steps to become pregnant. He would like for the patients he’s worked with to feel that life goes on, that it still has meaning, though of course he’s sympathetic to the grieving process.
I ask Murtinger why Niederuzwil, a pleasant but unremarkable small town, was chosen as the location for the Swiss office. He explains that Dr. Zech emphasizes running the centers as a family owned business. In keeping with that philosophy, the medical staff also wants to have a personal connection with Swiss patients, and meet them closer to home. Neideruzwil’s central location makes it a convenient drive from various Swiss towns: Zurich, Winterthur and St. Gallen. Dr. Murtinger points out that the Voralberg region of Austria, where the main office is located, has more in common with Eastern Switzerland than, for example, the West of Vienna, where Murtinger grew up.
And when did Dr. Murtinger decide to study medicine?
There was never any question of doing anything else, he says.
And that fits.