Augusto Maia, with his vast experience as an executive in the pharmaceutical industry, found inspiration in the stories experienced by people who sought assisted reproduction to fulfill their desire to have a child. These narratives touched him deeply, leading him to publish “Amor In Vitro”, a fictional book full of social, emotional and philosophical reflections on the possibilities offered by the advancement of science in the field of medicine.
This work is divided into seven short stories, each representing a dive into dilemmas, conflicts and emotions that orbit the human condition. Each plot presents elements capable of instigating discussions about contemporary reality: from a lesbian couple facing family prejudice in their search for having a child to the story of a woman unable to access assisted reproduction for financial reasons, and even the reflection of a doctor who, despite helping other families fulfill their desire to have a baby, questions the possibility of experiencing this experience for herself.
With illustrations carefully created by Alexandra Seraphim and poems that reflect the characters’ feelings, the book aims, above all, to offer a sensitive and reflective vision about assisted reproduction. However, the stories not only move, but also inform: Augusto Maia weaves informative notes throughout the work, contextualizing the public with relevant data on infertility, fertility rate, socioeconomic implications and more.
Furthermore, the author projects some of the stories into the future, exploring potential advances in medicine and possible social transformations. By providing truthful information about the progress of in vitro fertilization, he raises ethical questions, questioning what humanity will be like in a few decades. Among the considerations, reflection emerges on the next era of gene editing and the development of embryos in an artificial pouch, and what ethical and social implications these innovations may bring.
Production engineer and business administrator, Augusto Maia has more than 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Master in Sciences from the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp), his research is centered on Humanities, Narratives and Humanization. With the publication of “Amor in Vitro”, inspired by real stories about assisted reproduction, Maia makes her debut in fiction literature, after having already launched, in 2022, the book “Humanistic Responsibility – a proposal for the ESG agenda” and having contributed articles to academic journals.
How did your experiences in the pharmaceutical industry influence the inspiration behind “Amor In Vitro”?
I worked in the area of reproductive medicine and interacted directly with the main fertility doctors in Brazil. I also participated in many medical conferences. In this interaction, I learned about the various issues surrounding assisted reproduction treatment, which go beyond technique and medications, and address psychological, social, moral and religious issues, among others. Likewise, I heard many real stories that doctors and friends told me and I was enchanted by the humanity and complexity of the dilemmas that are faced in this field. As I already had plans to write a book, I naturally took advantage of this entire experience.
Is there a specific story or experience that led you from this experience to writing this book?
There is no specific case. In fact, the different perspectives from which this topic can be approached produce very rich and very interesting material to be explored by a fiction author.
The seven short stories in the work address social and emotional dilemmas related to assisted reproduction. What was your approach to creating these stories? How are they based on real accounts that you have found?
Firstly, I defined the themes I wanted to address through the stories, such as the issue of solo motherhood, religion, access to treatment and the moral dilemmas that we will face with the rapid advancement of science. From there, I identified elements from the many stories I knew to create the characters in each story. So I imagined possible situations putting myself in the characters’ shoes.
In addition to the fictional stories, her book includes informative notes to contextualize readers about infertility and other issues. What was the intention behind this addition? How do you believe this information can broaden the public’s understanding of the topic?
Reproductive medicine is a complex topic, it allows for countless possibilities and there are many open questions to be answered. Generally, only professionals in the field and people who have undergone treatment understand this context and are familiar with the vocabulary used and the stages of treatment. Therefore, it includes informative notes to help the lay reader get closer to this universe and empathize with the characters.
You mentioned that some tales project possible future advances in reproductive medicine. How did you explore these advances in the book and why did you consider it important to bring them into the discussion?
This is a very important topic for reflection. I relied on recently published scientific articles to raise bioethics questions through stories. Advances in genetics, for example, will allow a level of interference in the natural reproduction process that has the potential to modify our species. In the same vein, the gestation process may be artificial. What will be the consequences? How far do we want to go? These are questions we need to address.
How important is it to convey philosophical and social reflections through fiction? How do you see the role of books and literature in addressing sensitive topics, such as assisted reproduction?
I believe that it is through the aesthetic-reflexive effect caused by the arts that we reach the essence of our humanity, through an affective and not an intellective route. Literature fulfills this role very well.
How does the inclusion of illustrations and poems in the work contribute to the reader’s experience? What was your intention when integrating these elements?
The artist who produced the illustrations was extremely sensitive in symbolically representing each story through the images. In this way, the illustrations accompanied by the poems bring beauty and connect the reader with the stories directly through emotion.
In your opinion, how does contemporary society deal with the issue of assisted reproduction? What are the main challenges and prejudices that you believe still need to be overcome?
Society is still learning to deal with advances in technology, which are faster than our ability to create consensus and regulate. Religious, cultural and economic issues come into play that need to be taken into account. Therefore, human reproduction scenarios vary greatly in each country. The issue of access to treatment, for example, is a challenge in Brazil. Here, low-income people who cannot pay for treatment have little chance in the public service. Another challenge is information, and even in the medical community there is a lot to do. For example, young women who need to undergo chemotherapy due to breast cancer, which affects their ovarian reserve and reduces the chances of pregnancy in the future, are not always advised by oncologists to freeze their eggs. The solution is education through the dissemination of information and debate. This is one of the objectives of the book.
The book discusses the possible future of human reproduction, such as gene editing and the development of embryos in artificial sacs. What ethical and social reflections do you hope to provoke with these discussions?
We must reflect and define the scope of technologies that can have a huge impact on the future of humanity. This is the case of nuclear energy, artificial intelligence and assisted reproduction techniques. For example, the possibility of gestation outside the uterus and generating embryos from only male or female gametes, or directly from stem cells, can completely transform the way society is organized. Furthermore, this degree of interference in the natural process directs evolution, reduces the diversity promoted by the randomness of nature and, therefore, brings many risks. We need to decide how far we want to go and what legacy we want to leave for future generations. I address this issue in the last three stories.
Could you share a little about the process of writing this book? Were there any specific challenges when approaching such a complex and sensitive topic?
I started the project by imagining a more informative and pedagogical text thinking about people who can benefit from reproductive medicine resources. I had also thought about provoking discussion around important topics, as I exemplified before. However, throughout the process, as I created the stories and put myself in the shoes of the characters, the text flowed towards a much more literary and fictional line, and reproductive medicine became more of a backdrop to elaborate the affective and morals that shape our humanity. Along this path, poems helped me a lot. I hadn’t planned on writing them, but they became a resource for me to disconnect from the day-to-day demands of life and connect with the text. So I always started by writing or re-reading the poems, or mentally singing the song that I reference in one of the stories, to stimulate creativity and enter the universe of the stories I wrote.
What message or impact do you hope readers take away after reading “Amor In Vitro”? How do you think this book can influence or contribute to awareness about assisted reproduction?
The book can be read from different perspectives. I imagine that some people will seek to find out more about assisted reproduction and consider it as an alternative to building their families, others will be interested in social and cultural issues and, finally, many will reflect on the moral dilemmas we already face and those that we will face. In the end, I think the central message is that love must be at the center of our decisions, as it is in the encounter between affection and reason that our humanity is defined, and we are tipping the scales to one side.
Follow Augusto Maia in Instagram