Crisis What Crisis?

56. Professor Robert Winston on grief, guilt and the truth about fertility

Listen on

Episode notes

“You start wondering if your own life is worth continuing. It’s obvious that you think about that. But what do you learn? I don’t know. I think people learn different things and people react to grief very differently.”
Joining us for this episode is Professor Robert Winston – scientist, author, broadcaster and politician. Devoting much of his adult life to the crisis of infertility – IVF pioneer Lord Winston is that rare breed … a scientist who can speak fluent human.
With fertility and genomics never far from the headlines, Lord Winston continues to face down considerable controversy – periodic media storms that would send most scientists sprinting back to the safety of the lab. In this conversation Lord Winston lays bare the harsh statistical truth about IVF … facts, he says, you will not learn from the fertility industry.
A one-time Peer of the Year winner, Lord Winston also has an active political life beyond his career addressing the crisis of infertility. Sadly, it was in the Lord’s last year, that he revealed an altogether different, very personal crisis with the sad loss of his wife Lira, who died suddenly at their home. In this episode you’ll hear how, with Lira in his arms, he called 999, only to be met with an operator who wasted precious time in getting an ambulance. Lord Winston also tells us movingly how Lira’s death caused him to question whether he could live on without her.

Topics covered:

  • The truth about fertility success rates
  • Collaboration & resilience
  • How to cope with public scrutiny
  • Grief & guilt
  • The NHS Crisis
  • The dangers of genomics

Robert’s Crisis Cures:
  1. Find mentors who you trust. Anne McLaren was a very good example – a brilliant female scientist.
  2. Work in collaboration with a team you get on with.
  3. Be persistent but recognise your failures. Because failure teaches you to do it better next time.

Twitter –
Website –
Genesis Research Trust –
Inventors: Incredible stories of the world’s most ingenious inventions –
Ask A Scientist: Professor Robert Winston Answers 100 Big Questions from Kids Around the World! –

Stream/Buy ‘Allies’ by Some Velvet Morning:
Some Velvet Morning Website:
Your Daily Practice: Sleep by Myndstream:

Host – Andy Coulson
CWC production team: Louise Difford, Ed Isaacs and Jane Sankey
With special thanks to Global