Wednesday, August 19. 2015
The hidden camera footage reveals the Indian restaurant is crowded, and the ambient noise of fellow diners all around makes it hard to hear. But Gianna Toboni, an investigative reporter from HBO’s documentary show VICE, slowly begins to understand what is being offered to her by a woman sitting across the table.
Toboni is in India to get a firsthand look at the country’s booming international surrogacy industry. She has heard rumors of “extra” Caucasian babies for sale, so she meets a surrogacy broker for dinner. On camera, the broker, holding a swaddled infant, tells Toboni she can take the baby home tonight — for a price.
The source of these “extra” babies is beyond horrifying. Western couples are taking advantage of the discounts international surrogacy offers. They get a baby gestated for them at a low price, and the women in third-world countries get more money than they could make in several years.
To make the process more efficient, doctors often transfer more than one embryo to a surrogate. If she gets pregnant with multiples, sometimes the commissioning couple is not told. Nine months later, they fly in and get the one baby they paid for. The “extras,” however, are peddled on the black market. While the couple thinks they’re getting a miracle at a bargain price, they are unaware that their “extra” children are being sold to whoever is willing to pay.
Continue reading the National Catholic Register>>
Tuesday, July 7. 2015
In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage for the entire United States, I have read a lot of commentary. None of it spoke to me as loudly as this post at AnonymousUs.org by a daughter of a lesbian mother and anonymous sperm donor. I post it in its entirety because I simply cannot bring myself to edit her raw emotion:
Children’s Rights? Anyone? :o(Continue reading at Creative Minority Report>>
Thursday, June 18. 2015
The New York Times has a piece this week about the conundrum of what to do with all of the "leftover" embryos created with IVF that are in the deep freeze waiting to get a chance to finish their lives. The Times estimates that there maybe over a million by now. A million lives on ice created as surplus children in a mass-human manufacturing campaign.
Except "leftover" is no longer the most appropriate word to use to describe frozen IVF embryos. Why not? Well "left-over" implies that the embryos were created in a batch for a particular couple and the couple now has more embryos than they want to use. Kinda like leftover lasagna. Some of it gets eaten and then rest it put in the freezer. (The callous comparison is on purpose because frankly many people think nothing more of putting their embryonic children in anti-freeze and then into cold storage than they would freezing their left-over lasagna.)
"Unused" is a better term because some of the frozen embryos are not "left-over." These embryos are intentionally created from desirable sperm and egg donors and then sold. They are not "left-over." They are the primary merchandise. The Times has the details:
At Dr. Ernest Zeringue’s IVF clinic in Davis, Calif., a program he calls California Conceptions goes beyond embryo donation to embryo creation.Who says IVF has not turned procreation into a major life purchase like a house or car? Money back guarantee? On children?
I agree with this guy:
“Make no mistake, this is commodification,” Andrew Vorzimer, a Woodland Hills, Calif., fertility lawyer, posted in his blog. “These are not donated embryos. Rather, they are embryos created from donors hand-selected by California Conceptions. It is one step removed from a mail-order catalog. The only difference is that the product being sold is nascent human life.”And he is part of the industry!
I cannot help feeling sorry for the kids who will have likely have several siblings, maybe in their own area, that they will never know. Tragic. I truly hope the news that they were created in bulk from the gametes of total strangers and then sold will not devastate them. I know it will crush some.
It really is time for society to stop turning its back on the abuses of the fertility industry. We think we are making the world a better place because a precious few actually get born. We can celebrate the lives of IVF children, but we cannot ignore how the industry has totally cheapened procreation and turn it into human trafficking.
Wednesday, April 1. 2015
International surrogacy is often touted as a win-win situation. Western couples get a baby gestated for them at a low price, and the women in third world countries get more money than they would normally see in a lifetime.
But all we rich western countries have to do is look a tad bit closer and the whole facade falls apart. The women are exploited by signing contracts they cannot read, are kept under lock and key, forced to deliver by cesarean section, and then not paid the full amount they are promised. Some women die. Many of the contracting western couples simply do not care, since they are getting a baby at a discount.
But the exploitation does not stop there. In a shocking piece of investigative journalism, HBO’s documentary show VICE has uncovered even more disturbing details. To maximize results, these surrogates are often implanted with multiple embryos. If the couple only wants one child, any “extras” born are sold on the black market, and these couples have no idea their children are being sold to the highest bidder.
Continue reading at LifeNews>>
Tuesday, March 17. 2015
Despite cries that the world is overpopulated, some nations are encouraging their citizens to procreate. This is due to a dismissal reproduction rate that threatens to collapse economies.
Japan is one of those nations that is facing a demographic apocalypse. It is estimated that by 2050 Japan may lose a third of its population. In response one Japanese city is going to pay women to freeze their eggs. Mark Hay at Good Magazine has the story:
Late last month, the city of Urayasu, in Japan’s Chiba Prefecture, decided to one-up the nation’s public medical insurance scheme by offering to subsidize egg freezing for local women. Dubbed the Urayasu Oocyte Cryopreservation Program, the plan is an apparent global first by any municipality. The local government has promised to allocate 90 million yen (about $750,000) to the local Juntendo University Hospital to promote research on the process, which involves encouraging local women to utilize the procedure. Normally, including 10 years of storage, egg freezing costs about a million yen ($8,250). The first round of cash from the government will reduce the cost of egg freezing by 70 percent for local women between the ages of 20 and 34 at the time of egg collection and under 45 by the time of egg use.Hay reports that so far there is only a 5% chance for each egg that it will be successfully retrieved and will be viable after freezing. Each egg only has a 5% chance of producing a child. 5%!
Of course, if a women is stimulated enough with drugs she might be lucky enough to produce 10 eggs. That may increase her chances to 50%. Maybe.
Three-quarters of a million dollars to pay for a procedure that is likely to fail more than half of the time. Sounds like sound public policy to me.
Beyond the sure financial madness of it, what about the health risks to women? Hay does not report on those, but women have lost their fertility and some have died from this invasive procedure. Some claim it has given them cancer. It does not seem that this is actually giving "women more choice in their reproductive options." It sounds to me like a misguided research project that downplays the real risks involved.
And I still cannot get over the 5% statistic. Are women really so disposable that a government can fund something dangerous to a woman's health despite the horrible odds of success?
I know a better use for the $750,000. How about an education campaign alerting modern women about their fertility? Real truths about how beautiful it is; how fragile and fleeting it can be. That way women can make informed choices about their reproductive lives, not simply become guinea pigs for procedures that are risky and unproven.
Wednesday, March 11. 2015
Every once and awhile I visit the Anonymous Us Project website to see the posts of the children of anonymous gamete donation. I am always shocked and surprised at the amount of heartbreak pouring out in nearly every post. This forum so necessary. It has totally opened my eyes to the pain felt, but not always openly expressed, by the children of donor ART. Here are a few recent excerpts:
My very own fatherAnd this one I find particularly heartbreaking:
Just figured out my uncle is actually my father, and my mother is my aunt
Tuesday, December 16. 2014
Last year, Bruce Feiler wrote a piece for The New York Times in which he began by regretting the bad behavior of his family at a reunion. He wondered whether his family was “falling apart.” That question prompted him to research what makes for a happy family.
Feiler found the work of Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University. Duke came up with a questionnaire for children called the “Do You Know?” scale, which contained 20 questions about the child’s family history. Children were asked, among other things, if they knew where their mom and dad went to high school, where their grandparents grew up and which person they looked most like in their family.
What Duke found was surprising. The single best predictor of emotional health and happiness in children was how well they performed on the “Do You Know?” scale. Feiler wrote, “The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.”
This finding may not be so surprising, considering the popularity of websites like Ancestry.com, where the creators invite visitors, “Join us on a journey through the story of how you became, well, you.” Even TLC has a genealogy show called Who Do You Think You Are? — which implies that our very identity is rooted in those people who not only begot us, but those who begot our parents and grandparents, as well.
And yet society has embraced, without question, creating children who will intentionally be denied part, or all, of their family history.
Continue reading at the National Catholic Register>>
Tuesday, December 9. 2014
I think future generations will look back on our insane notion of "reproductive rights," and they will be horrified. Back in the 70s reproductive rights meant terminating a life you already started. Today it also means creating life however you see fit and tossing out whatever doesn't suit your desires. So not only have we killed tens of millions of our own offspring in the name of these "reproductive rights," but we have also turned children into accessories, completing our idea of a perfect family, like a well-appointed scarf completes the perfect outfit.
Case in point, this admission of Australian mother, Jayne Cornwill. She proudly proclaims she "paid $50,000" for her girl, Emmerson. After having three sons, Jayne and her husband, healthy and fertile, were "forced" to travel to America and pay fertility doctor, Daniel Potter, to finally give them a girl. See most other civilized countries in the world think that choosing the sex of your child is barbaric and so have outlawed the practice, but here in the Brave New United States, whatever pays, plays.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Wednesday, November 19. 2014
Good grief. That is nearly all I can say about this growing trend of "free" sperm donors. If you are a woman looking to get pregnant and cannot afford to go to a sperm bank, then there are men out there willing to impregnate you for free. That is if you are fine with having sex with a complete stranger. Medical Daily has the story:
Joe considers himself to be a sort of Superman, except instead of flying around saving lives, he travels the UK making lives. Joe is a free sperm donor — that is, he has sex with women free of charge in order to impregnate them. While the service may sound a bit unorthodox, Joe claims he’s conceived more than 30 offspring and is far from the only man to tap into this hot business.And just in case you think Joe is the only one out there, there are "free" sperm donor websites with thousands of members.
Setting aside the health risks and the fact that Joe is a serial adulterer, this trend really does illuminate how disconnected our society has become regarding sexual intercourse.
Naturally sex has two aspects. There is the love and bonding part between two potential parents and then there is the procreative part, the part that produces offspring. They are two parts of the same whole. One without the other and the act is only a shadow of what it was meant to be. I like to think of sex like a pair of scissors. Together the scissors work together beautifully. Separate the two parts and you could probably cut something, but it sure won't work as as well as when the two parts are joined together.
We unnaturally separated these two parts of sex when we decided that sex should only be for recreation and embraced widespread contraception use.
Then, with artificial insemination and IVF, we separated procreation from the sex act altogether bringing human reproduction into the sterile atmosphere of the laboratory.
Now we have come full circle and "free" sperm donors are providing the procreation the natural way without the bonding part. Now it is just sex with a stranger to make babies.
Babies that are going to ask where their father is. Babies that will likely have a innate desire to know and love their biological father. Imagine the devastation when these kids find out their mother had sex with a total stranger to bring them into existence. I cannot even imagine. Those poor children.
Have I said good grief yet? If not, GOOD GRIEF!
Tuesday, November 11. 2014
Creating children with sperm donation has gone on for a long time. In fact, the first documented case of a woman becoming pregnant by donor insemination was in 1884. A Quaker woman and her merchant husband, not able to conceive, approached Dr. William Pancoast of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. When Dr. Pancoast presented this couple's case to his medical students, one of the students suggested:
… that semen should be collected from the "best looking" member of the class, and used to inseminate the woman. Dr. Pancoast agreed to the experiment. Without informing either the woman or her husband of his intentions, he called the merchants wife back under the pretense of doing another examination. The woman was anesthetized, and the procedure was carried out. It wasn't until it became evident that the woman had actually conceived that her husband was informed.The woman was never told what was done to her. It seems somethings never change. Today's billion dollar fertility industry regularly uses woman desperate for children as guinea pigs for whatever new procedure a doctor can think up.
Over a century later and the practice has become even more bizarre and convoluted. Last week I stumbled upon this piece at the New Republic by Stephanie Fairyington. Stephanie fell in love with her lesbian partner Sabrina, and they were married. Visiting Sabrina's newborn niece, Del, brought out something unexpected in Stephanie:
Del planted an impossible desire in me: She made me want to corporealize my love for Sabrina, to create a biological record—a baby—of the fact that we were here and we loved one another.Unable to conceive on their own, they needed sperm, but just any sperm donor would not do. For both women to have a biological connection to the "corporealization of their love" a relation would have to provide the sperm. So Stephanie asked her brother to be their donor.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report>>
Tuesday, October 14. 2014
Last week doctors in Sweden announced the birth of a baby after a uterus transplant. The baby is so far healthy being born at only 31 weeks gestation.
I am very happy that mother and baby are healthy enough to leave the hospital and I wish them continued health. I also wish that this procedure is quickly rejected by the greater medical establishment.
You might ask why a pro-life person would ever be against a procedure that brings life into the world. I am against the uterus transplant because I believe it is bad medicine.
Many people, including prominent bioethicist Father Tad Pacholczyk who compared a uterus transplant to a kidney transplant, believe that this is just like another other organ transplant and so a worthwhile endeavor. I have to respectfully disagree.
Kidneys are an organ that are necessary for life. A uterus is not. A woman is not going to die if she does not have a uterus. This is purely an elective procedure.
Elective procedures are not necessarily bad medicine, but when they put multiple lives at risk then we must call foul. In this case a live donor was used to obtain the uterus. Her life was put at risk for a very invasive procedure, the removal of her uterus. Then the woman who received the uterus also underwent invasive surgery and put her own life at risk. Then the child who was gestated in a donated womb had his or her life put at risk during the most critical part of human development. What if the mother began to reject the uterus? What does that mean for the fetus whose very life depends on the perfect functioning of that organ?
I am not the only one raising these important flags. Dr. Antonio Gargiulo, a specialist in infertility and reproductive surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was interview by the Boston Globe and he lays it all out:
A live donor would have to undergo a radical hysterectomy, he said, which would remove a larger portion of the tissues surrounding the uterus than in a typical hysterectomy, so that those tissues could be connected with tissues of the recipient.So three lives put at risk during an elective procedure for a non-life threatening condition: the desire to experience pregnancy.
When it be enough? When will we draw a line and say "I am very sorry for the pain and anguish you experience because of your infertility, but this is a length to which we just cannot go."
I also see abuses in the future. When kidney and other organ transplants began I doubt anyone realized the massive demand that would result. A demand that fuels a black market organ trade which exploits the poor in third world countries. When surrogacy began, I bet no one envisioned hundreds of poor women in Asian countries being paid paltry amounts to carry the offspring of rich westerners.
I fear if uterus transplants become commonplace this is just one more way the rich will exploit those living in poverty not just overseas but in our own communities. If we can pay a woman to carry a child for us, then how much more would we pay for her uterus so that we can carry the child ourselves?
The chance for massive exploitation of poor women willing to sell their functioning uterus to the highest bidder scares me. Call me alarmist if you will, but considering the world we live in, I feel this is a real possibility.
Monday, October 6. 2014
Jennifer Cramblett (Mark Duncan/AP)
So far the debate has been whether or not the lesbian couple is racist. I will not address that issue because I believe there is something much larger at issue here. I want to instead highlight the legacy that decades of artificial reproductive technologies has left us: a society that sees children as products, no different then cars and fast food.
Here is a small sampling of actual comments I have read on this case. There are hundreds of others. Read them and tell me that many people in our society do not now see children as something that can be bought and paid for:
You should get what you paid for. It's not racist, pay for white baby, get white baby.This is the real story. It isn't about race. This is about an industry that has tricked us into believing human beings can be ordered, paid for, and evaluated like any other purchase.
We have made the most precious gifts the world has to offer into something that can be seriously compared with a fast food order. That is the real tragedy. Unfortunately, it is the children that will pay the price.
Wednesday, August 27. 2014
Paul Knoepfler is a stem cell researcher in California. His work focuses on the reasons pluripotent stem cells (both induced and embryonic) form tumors. He is also a writer and a blogger which is unusual for a research scientist.
Knoepfler does not oppose embryonic stem cell research or therapeutic cloning, but he does oppose the three-parent embryo technique also called mitochondrial replacement. On a recent blog about three-parent babies at the New York Times, Knoepfler wrote this comment:
I'm a stem cell researcher and one of the more vocal opponents of this technology....Dr. Knoepfler is correct. We have not truly discussed the implications of this procedure or how it will lead us further down the eugenics road we are already on. Make no mistake, this technique does not just screen out embryos, it engineers them.
Also, such an invasive intervention on the egg (or embryo) may lead to serious problems that we cannot predict. Knoepfler wrote on his blog:
In the hypothetical context of real-world assisted reproduction, moving one oocyte nucleus into the enucleated oocyte of another person could trigger all kinds of devastating problems (most likely through epigenetic changes) that might not manifest until you try to make a human being out of it.And it is also too late for every generation after. Is that really a chance we want to take? Do we have the moral authority to purposefully and intentionally inflict such abnormalities on future generations?
Dr. Knoepfler is telling us we should not proceed; we need to listen.
Thursday, August 7. 2014
A surrogacy story gone wrong has recently made headlines all over the world: David and Wendy Farnell, an Australian couple, contracted with a Thai woman, Pattharamon Janbua, to carry their in vitro fertilization (IVF)-created embryos. Pattharamon gave birth to twins, a boy with Down syndrome and a girl. The Farnells took the girl home to Australia and left the boy, named Gammy, in Thailand.
The Farnells say that they were told that Gammy was going to die, so they left him behind. It is telling that nowhere in the couple’s statements do they mention going back to get him. Pattharamon is now committed to raising Gammy as a part of her family. In an ominous twist to an already tragic predicament, David Farnell is a sex offender who spent three years in jail for sexually molesting two 10-year-old girls. Now, Pattharamon wants the baby girl back, too. She has said, “Because she is my baby; she was in my womb.”
The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano ran an op-ed commenting on Gammy’s story, stating, “In reality, there’s little to be indignant about: If you accept the logic of a child as a product, this is the obvious consequence.”
It is no secret that the stance of the Catholic Church — which categorically rejects the “logic” of regarding any child as a mere “product” — is wildly unpopular. In a society that thinks any way to make a baby is the right way to make a baby, the Church is often seen as a backward institution that rejects and shames infertile couples. We are labeled as “haters.”
In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Continue reading at the National Catholic Register>>
Wednesday, August 6. 2014
There are dozens of countries around the world that have banned sex selection. Unfortunately, the United States is not one of them. That makes the U.S. a destination spot for couples who want just the right number of girls and boys in their family.
The United Kingdom is one of those places where selecting the sex of your embryos in the IVF process is prohibited. The Daily Mail reports that more and more Brits are coming to America to “choose” the sex of their next child.
Continue reading at LifeNews>>
Tuesday, July 15. 2014
There is one argument against the Hobby Lobby decision that is driving me crazy maybe because it is going unchallenged on Facebook pages and comboxes all over.
It goes like this: if Hobby Lobby can deny health insurance coverage for birth control, then what will stop a company owned by other religious nut jobs from denying blood transfusions, chemotherapy, or inhalers for asthma?
This one seems to make sense and I am sure many people do not see where it falls short. I am not expert on Constitutional Law or on health insurance in general but this seems pretty obvious to me.
Blood transfusions, chemotherapy, and inhalers are medicine. They are therapeutic in nature needed for those who are sick. These are exactly the kinds of things health insurance is supposed to pay for. Any employer religious or otherwise is going to have a very tough time having a legitimate claim for not including well-known therapeutic measures for their employees because these are actually "health care."
Birth control is different. Of course there are cases where the pill is prescribed for medical reasons, but I speak only about birth control for the prevention of pregnancy. In this case birth control is not medicine nor is it therapeutic. Birth control actuals takes something that is normal, fertility, and makes it not work properly. Birth control is not even remotely in the same class as blood transfusions, chemotherapy or inhalers.
Really birth control is something that allows people to engage in baby-making behavior without making babies. That is not medicine; it is a life style choice no different from condoms, other barrier methods or even permanent sterilizations. Employers are not required to cover life style choices like condoms in their policies because they are not something health insurance should cover.
I have not heard a single man shouting about how his employer is denying him access to his condoms. Why? Probably because when it comes to men's reproductive systems we can still engage in calm and clear reasoning without hysterical hyperbole.
If a man wants to engage in baby-making behavior without making a baby we make him pay for it.
Ladies, we want equality do we not? Or is this really about getting more than "health care" and making someone else pay for it?
Tuesday, April 8. 2014
The Church has always been against third-party reproduction and that is because the Church has always been focused on the needs of the child and not on the wants of the parents.
Humans have a universal desire to love and be loved by our biological parents. That requires that we know and be known by our biological parents; a scenario purposefully denied those children of anonymous sperm or egg donation.
The Church knows that connection to our biological parents is part of the rights of a child. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage.This right is ignored by the fertility industry in order to grease the wheels of profit and give desperate parents what they want. After decades of creating children that can never know their biological progenitors, the cracks are beginning to show as more and more donor-conceived adults are speaking out. Here are just two snippets from AnonymousUs.org:
I look at history, and there are dads, I look at wildlife, there are dads, I look at society and there are dads. Dads are everywhere, maybe its media but I feel like I'm missing out. I feel like I will never know what it's like to be in the arms of a man who loves me unconditionally in a innocent non-sexual way, and who will be my other half. I will never know what it's like to bond with my other genetic parent, I will never know what it's like to look at the rest of nature and know I was conceived the way I was suppose to be...you know, outside a science lab....and not on a dish to be shoved into a refrigerator.And:
I have a tape of my donor's voice, answering questions. Some are deep queries about his personal beliefs, but others are trivial. Those are the ones that make me cry. Questions like 'what's your favorite movie?' He gave the same answer as me and it confused and delighted me. After hearing in him all the traits in me the rest of my family doesn't understand, I felt like i'd missed out on something spectacular, to be understood by the person partially responsible for my existence.... It seems odd and horrorible at the same time that two people who have never even laid eyes on each other have a child. I hate that my dad got paid. I hate that he was probably just some guy who was broke and needed a little bit of pocket cash. No matter how great of a guy he was, he just wanted the money. And even though I think about him all the time, he has no idea I that exist.Now, Dr. Keith Ablow has thrown down the gauntlet. In an opinion piece at FoxNews, Ablow calls for anonymous sperm and egg donation be outlawed. Why? Because it violates the rights of the very children it creates:
Without seemingly having given it much thought at all, our society now allows tens of thousands or more of men and women to create children who will never know one or sometimes both of their biological parents, because states allow these anonymous donations. And this policy inherently presupposes that bearing children who have no opportunity to know their biological fathers or mothers does not deprive them of anything that is inherently theirs – as a fundamental human right.Harsh? Yes. True? Another yes.
Ablow makes the necessary distinction between adoption, which is an attempt to solve a problem and anonymous gamete donation which creates and perpetuates a problem:
Anonymous sperm and ova donation solves no problem of any child. It is a convenience to adults who are encountering fertility problems and would prefer the convenience of jettisoning part of their child's true life history in order to commandeer that child from its true biological father or mother.Thank-you Dr. Ablow for speaking the uncomfortable truth. It is time our society put the health and well-being of children over the desires of perspective parents.
Wednesday, October 9. 2013
This week the genetics world exploded with discussion about a new patent just issued by the U.S. Patent Office to a California company, 23andMe. 23andMe is a direct-to-consumer genetic testing company that offers genetic information to anyone who sends in a saliva sample and a fee.
23andMe was offered a patent on their inheritance calculator, a feature where prospective parents can figure out the likely traits their children will have. The controversy surrounds the patent's extension into the fertility industry where this technology could be used to screen donor egg and sperm to create a child with desired physical attributes.
Nature reports some of the options listed in the patent:
Figure 4 of the patent application lists the following alternative choices: “I prefer a child with”: “longest expected life span”/“least expected life cost of health care”/“least expected cumulative duration of hospitalization.” Figure 6 visualizes a choice between the “offspring’s possible traits” of “0% likely endurance athlete” and “100% likely sprinter.”
Continue reading at LifeNews>>
Friday, September 20. 2013
Earlier this year, Dr. Robert Sparrow published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled "In Vitro Eugenics." In it, Sparrow explores the possibility of creating generations of human beings in the laboratory.
He explains that the stem cells from embryos could be used to make egg and sperm cells, which, in turn, could create more embryos.
This would bring human reproduction into the laboratory not just for one generation, but for generation after generation. Sparrow explains that these embryos would be "orphaned at conception." They "would have no genetic parents: There would be no living individual … who could be described as the genetic progenitor of such embryos."
Sparrow calls this new possibility in human reproduction "in vitro eugenics."
While this sounds like something that could only happen in science fiction, producing egg and sperm from stem cells is now a reality. Scientists have already accomplished this in mice and are discussing doing the same in humans.
Why would anyone want to create multiple human generations in a laboratory?
Sparrow suggests it could become a "method to bring into existence children with a desired genotype."
Continue reading at the National Catholic Register >>
Monday, June 10. 2013
It is undeniable that we humans have an innate desire to know from whom we came. Many people who are adopted or have only one parent will tell you that they feel they are missing a piece of a puzzle. Genealogy websites like Ancestry.com exist because of our fascination with our genetic ancestors. Every time I see an ad for Ancestry.com, a place where you "Find your ancestors’ stories" and "Discover yours," I feel that tug to find out more about my grandparents and great-grandparents. My daughter's junior year project for high school was a presentation and paper on the immigration of both sides of her family to America.
Now imagine if you were purposely denied one half of your story by a powerful industry that runs on anonymity. And what if when you pointed out the intentional injustice, you were told that you should shut-up and simply be grateful for your life.
This is the experience for many a child conceived from anonymous donor gametes. The following is a excerpt from testimony that Alana S. Newman, founder of AnonymousUs.org, gave to the California Assembly Committee on Health regarding AB460, a bill in the California legislature that would require insurers to offer coverage for infertility treatments even to same-sex couples where the relationships are, by nature, not fertile. Such treatments often require donor gametes. Alana is bravely standing up for the rights of those intentionally denied what she believes is a fundamental right: the right to a relationship with one's biological parents. She writes:
The facts of my conception are that my father was paid to abandon me. There is no dignity in that. I suffered from debilitating identity issues, mistrust of the opposite sex, hatred and condemnation of the opposite sex, feelings of objectification – like I only exist as a play – toy for others, and feeling like a science experiment.Very few people like to hear that their choices have devastating consequences for others. If there is a place where voices like Alana's need to be heard, it is the fertility machine. Both infertile couples and the fertility industry must hear what she is saying. The desire for a child does not trump the right of a child to know his or her biological parents.
Wait a minute. I have heard that before. Oh yes, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage.
Friday, May 17. 2013
This is so incredibly sad for so many reasons. There is really nothing else to say. (I have already expressed my concerns about uterine transplants here.) From the UK's Daily Mail:
A woman who was the first to have a successful womb transplant from a dead donor has had her pregnancy terminated after the embryo showed no heartbeat, doctors in Turkey have said.
I mourn the loss of this little one. Eternal rest grant unto him or her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him or her. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Wednesday, April 17. 2013
Part of being a blogger is learning that people, even ones on your side, will misread, misunderstand, and misrepresent what you are saying. Being human, many of us only read headlines, or skim through a piece missing the major points, or infer things that simply are not implied. Knowing this, I try not to let reactions to my posts get under my skin.
For some reason the reactions to yesterday's news about the pregnancy of the woman who underwent a uterus transplant really affected me. To recap, a woman born without a uterus was transplanted with a uterus from a deceased woman. She then underwent IVF and is now confirmed to be pregnant.
Many of the comments I have read state that the only thing wrong with this is the IVF. If she had gotten pregnant naturally this would be fine. I also read a lot of comments that compare a uterus transplant to a kidney or heart transplant. The thought is that if those are morally acceptable then this should be to.
I guess I am disheartened that many of the comments echo the sentiments of the rest of society: the emotional appeals to what the parents want with little thought to how a procedure affects the health and well-being of the child.
Let us think about this critically instead of emotionally.
A uterus transplant is not a necessary procedure. This woman was not going to die if she did not receive a womb. This is nothing like a kidney or heart transplant. The point was so that she could be pregnant evidenced by the fact that the uterus will be removed after the child is delivered.
Since the uterus came from a deceased woman, presumably no other lives were put at risk to retrieve the organ. This is not the case with a live uterus donor which is also being attempted. To put the health and safety of the otherwise healthy woman donating the uterus at risk to provide a organ that is not essential for life is not ethical.
Beyond the actual transplant, let us consider the child that is now being gestated in this transplanted uterus. This child was purposefully placed in a womb that is a potentially dangerous place. The mother has to take immunosuppressant drugs so she will not reject the uterus. As experts said there is significant risk of birth defects and pre-term labor here. The child was created in a lab and intentionally put at risk in an experimental womb just so that this woman could experience pregnancy.
Remember there is a PERSON in that womb whose life hangs in the balance. He or she could suffer life-long consequences. Is this treating him or her with the utmost respect deserving of every person?
Sure it would be nice if every woman with a deformed or malfunction uterus could get a replacement, but how many children do we need to put at risk to perfect this procedure? In other high-risk medical procedures like heart or kidney transplants, the possible reward outweighs the risk because the patient is already in a life-threatening situation. But with a uterus transplant there is no life-threatening illness to treat. Is it ethical to intentionally put the life of a child at risk for a non-life threatening problem?
There are a lot of medical advancements that we could have if we treated research subjects unethically. Let us not forget that the child is also a subject in this experiment. Are we treating him or her ethically or as a regrettable, but acceptable, causality if this fails?
I fear that the attitude toward this child is the same as all the children of artificial reproductive technologies (ART) that came before. The priority is what the parents want. The health and safety of the child is secondary. A recent review of ART in the Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine Online, written by scientists in the field, reiterates that idea that in the fertility industry, many have a "let's see if it works and ask questions about safety later" attitude. Is that what is happening here?
I think if we continue on with this perspective where the health and safety of the next generation is not the first priority, things like "in vitro eugenics" are sure to follow. Dr. Sparrow is right that concerns about safety are unlikely to stop the creation of generations of embryos in the lab because, so far, concerns about the children hasn't stopped any ART. It is up to us to be the voice of the voiceless.
I realize that the Catholic Church has not officially come out against uterus transplants, but that does not mean we cannot think critically about it and come to the conclusion that this is unethical. I often ask myself these questions when evaluating advances in biotechnology. I think it applies here:
Does this technology disrespect or unnecessarily endanger human life at any point from the very beginning to natural death? Does it reduce human life to a biological commodity? Does it require that a human organism be used or destroyed?
I have come to the conclusion that the uterus transplant does intentionally endanger the life of an innocent child simply so a woman can be pregnant. I know others disagree. I just want to make sure that the discussions surrounding this procedure are grounded in the MOST important consideration, the health and well-being of the child, and not in the emotional appeal to what adults desire.
Tuesday, April 16. 2013
Doctors have announced that the woman that received a womb transplant is now pregnant. From RedOrbit:
The Turkish woman who, two years ago, became the first person in the world to have a successful womb transplant from a deceased donor is pregnant, various media outlets are reporting.Now it is time to pray for that child. Pray that he or she is born healthy with no complications. We need to pray because even the doctors admit that things may go wrong:
“Experts however warn the pregnancy carries several health risks to the patient as well as to the baby, including birth defects due to the use of immunosuppressive drugs as well as preterm delivery.”I think herein lies the problem. This child is the experiment, not part of an experiment, but is the actual experiment. Why else would you transplant a uterus to a woman who was born without one? It is not so she can menstruate for a few years. It is so she can gestate a baby. A baby that had his or her start in a laboratory not in a loving embrace.
The idea of a child as the experiment is not new. We have been experimenting with the next generation without their consent for a long time. We are still experimenting on them. The fact is we have no idea what the long-term physical and emotional effects of IVF, PGD, ICSI or other artificial reproductive technologies (ART) even are and yet we continue on. This uterus transplant is no different.
The avant-garde attitude toward the creation of children will continue on with the health and well-being of the children produced as an after-thought. Case in point, Dr. Robert Sparrow's paper "In vitro eugenics" in the Journal of Medical Ethics where he explores possibility of creating embryos in the lab, then using the stem cells from those embryos to create egg and sperm cells, and then using those gametes to create more embryos. Essentially, this would take human reproduction into the laboratory not just for one generation, but for generation after generation. These embryos would be "orphaned at conception." Unfortunately, this technology of producing egg and sperm from stem cells is no longer science fiction. Scientists have already accomplished this in mice and are discussing and developing strategies to doing the same in humans.
Sparrow points out that safety concerns for the children produced with "in vitro eugenics" will likely not prevent the practice because frankly we have had little concern for safety in any previous ART technique. Sparrow writes:
However, there are a number of reasons to believe that concerns about safety and risk are unlikely to prove an insurmountable barrier to the ethical creation of designer babies by in vitro eugenics. To begin with, as I noted above, these concerns arise regarding every new reproductive technology involving the manipulation of embryos. Until a generation of children produced by IVF (or intracytoplasmic sperm injection or cytoplasmic transfer) have lived out their natural lifespan, we will not know whether IVF (or any of these other technologies) is safe—and we certainly did not know this at the time at which those technologies were first trialled. Thus, in vitro eugenics would not raise any issues we have not confronted before.I think we can add uterus transplant from a deceased donor to his list of techniques where we did not know the whether the technique was "safe" before we tried it.
Let me provide an alternative way to view children. A view where children are to be treated with the utmost respect, not just from birth, but from conception. A view of children as the beautiful fruit of the love between a husband and wife not as the product of technological intervention. Let me quote Donum Vitae:
The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, “the supreme gift” and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents.And then Charter for Health Care Workers:
"The desire for a child, sincere and intense though it be, by the spouses, does not legitimize recourse to techniques which are contrary to the truth of human procreation and to the dignity of the new human being. The desire for a child gives no right to have a child. The latter is a person, with the dignity of a 'subject.' As such, it cannot be desired as an 'object.' The fact is that the child is a subject of rights: the child has the right to be conceived only with full respect for its personhood."I think it time we listen to the wisdom of the Catholic Church on procreation. Otherwise "in vitro eugenics" may only be the first in the long line of unethical techniques that treat children as objects and not as the gifts that they truly are.
Sunday, October 21. 2012
Fame Daddy, the company that says it was going to begin selling celebrity sperm to desperate couples, is a comedy hoax. YAAAYYY! Gotta love those Brits lampooning society's crass commercialization of procreation. From Time:
A British television network admitted Thursday that it fell for an actor pretending to be the CEO of Fame Daddy, allegedly a soon-to-be-launched paternity matching service that claims to have “scoured the globe” for well-known celebrities that have “agreed to share their genetic inheritance for the benefit of our clients…and mankind.”It think it says a lot about how society views children that many of us, the British media and myself included, found this credible.
Here is a tongue-in-cheek commercial for Fame Daddy. (Did I mention how much I love British humour?)
Wednesday, October 17. 2012
The Church warned us if we separated procreation from the physical act of love between a husband and wife, children would become commodities, man-made objects to be ordered from a menu to satisfy the whim of the parents. As William E. May so eloquently wrote:
"When a child is begotten through the conjugal act, he comes to be as a gift from God, a gift crowning the spouse's mutual gift of themsleves to each other. When a child is 'produced' it comes to be, not as a gift from God, which in truth it is, but as a product of human control."And here is yet another in a long line of "services" the fertility industry is willing to provide to make children even more a product to order to specifications. A company called Fame Daddy is poised to provide women with sperm from famous men at a premium price. From The Telegraph:
Fame Daddy will offer would-be-mothers “top quality celebrity surrogate fathers” when it launches next February, according to Dan Richards, its chief executive.Now Fame Daddy is not exactly up an running yet, so here is hoping this venture never gets off the ground. I am not normally one to hope that an entrepreneur fails, but when they say something like this, I can't help myself:
"To be able to harvest potential from the global gene pool, rather than from the more limited selection of the men she comes into direct contact with, is a major evolutionary leap for women."Evolutionary leap for women? Seriously? Ordering famous sperm from some celebrity chaser and raising a child to never know his or her father? I call that a step backward, not forward, for both her AND the child. And what happens when the child is not a rock star or star footballer or billionaire banker? Does mom get to sue for a "defective product"? Evolutionary leap indeed.
Hat Tip: Matt Swaim
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