If you need a shut-off valve on a pipe, you’d probably call a plumber, right? If the pipe was your vas deferens (assuming you’re a guy – women don’t have one), you’d probably call a doctor, right? Unless you‘re in Germany, where men who want a shut-off placed in the pipe that delivers sperm can now call a carpenter to install an on-off switch which allows them to be sterile on demand. Really?
Many of the doctors I consulted didn’t take me seriously.
It’s no wonder. That quote in a recent interview with Spiegel magazine is from German carpenter Clemens Bimek, who claims he came up with idea for a self-regulated vasectomy switch 20 years ago while watching television. (And you though American TV was boring).
The concept is fairly simple. A valve measuring just under an inch in length (that doesn’t sound long until you remember where it’s going) and weighing less than 0.1 ounces (2.8 grams – the web site says it’s the size of a gummy bear – ouch!) is implanted on the ducts (vas deferens) which carry sperm from the testicles to other places, including places where they meet up with eggs and start babies … unless the man with the switch manipulates it himself (he should have no trouble finding it) into the ”off” position, thus rendering him temporarily sterile.
This brings up many questions, starting with “How does he remember which position is “on” and which is “off”? (And what does he do if his girlfriend walks into the bathroom while he’s trying to read the words on the switch with a mirror and a magnifying glass?) Does it have a name? Yes - the Bimek SLV Spermatic Duct Valve. Is the company looking for investors? Of course.
Does it work? Well, the only person who actually has the Bimek SLV installed is Clemens Bimek himself, who had one implanted under local anesthetic (so he could watch and give directions) by his urologist, Hartwig Bauer, who thinks it’s better that trying to reverse a vasectomy.
A third of patients want to have the operation reversed later, but it doesn’t always work.
Bibek has been playing with his switch since it was installed and claims it works well enough that he’s convinced 25 other men to get the implants this year. Another urologist, Wolfgang Bühmann, has some warnings for these test subjects.
My assessment is that implanting the valve could cause scarring where it meets the vas deferens.
That scarring could block the duct even when the switch is ”on” (That means you want babies, right?). Bühmann also warns that the duct could become clogged if the switch is closed for too long (Closed is “off” – right? This is so hard to remember).
Men, would you get a Bimek SLV switch implanted? (Before answering, go get a gummy bear and think about how many times you leave the lights on.) Women, are you screaming “It’s about time!!”?