September 29, 2009
Accidental IVF Implantation Produces Baby

A pair of reports underscore how in vitro fertilization is creating a strange new world. 40 year old Carolyn Savage of Ohio was accidentally impregnated with another couple's embryo and due to religious beliefs carried the baby to term before handing over the baby boy to his biological parents.

Imagine this woman hadn't been willing to give up the baby. Well, how would a court rule? Would different courts render different decisions?

A 26 year old transsexual who started out as a female is going to try for another IVF pregnancy after miscarriage the first time. Her/his 43 year old girlfriend is too old for kids.

Ruben Noe Coronado Jimenez, 26, sparked a debate in Spain about the ethical use of reproductive technology, when he revealed earlier this year that he was carrying twins following IVF treatment.

The babies were due to be born this month but Mr Coronado, from Jaen in Andalucia, suffered a miscarriage in May during the 18th week of pregnancy.

So he's shifting back toward being more of a she in order to carry a baby to term.

A British fertility doctor says some women are literally dying to have a baby. The instinct to reproduce runs strongly in some.

Women are risking death and bankruptcy in their desperation to become mothers, according to Professor Sammy Lee, one of the country's leading experts on infertility.

...

"I have treated young women with cancer who have refused to have treatment for their illness until they have got pregnant and given birth, knowing they are risking their lives," added Lee, who has helped some couples through 12 cycles of IVF. The maximum number of treatments provided on the NHS is three. "Some of these women do, indeed, go on to die [from the cancer], but they die happy, feeling that they have achieved something greater than their own continued existence."

How to approach these issues? Women putting their lives at risk, really old women having babies they can't live long enough to raise, accidental implantation of wrong embryos, people shifting their bodies toward the feminine side of the ledger to have a baby. Weird wild stuff. I'm struck by the need for standards aimed at protecting the future babies. Prospective parents really just represent themselves and their own desires as they try to create babies who will have to live with the consequences of these decisions. Who represents the interests of the babies?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 September 29 12:23 AM  Bioethics Reproduction


Comments
David A. Young said at September 29, 2009 9:16 AM:

"I'm struck by the need for standards aimed at protecting the future babies. Prospective parents really just represent themselves and their own desires as they try to create babies who will have to live with the consequences of these decisions. Who represents the interests of the babies?"


Given that political power is never shared, the question you’re really asking is this: “Who will "best" look after the welfare of these babies? Some bureaucrat? Or the parents?” People always want to give governments the power to do some particular, specific thing. But it doesn’t work that way. “Mission Creep” is the lifeblood of bureaucracies. It’s how they survive and thrive. If you give the government the power to decide who may have babies and when, in some cases; then you will have inevitably given them the power to decide who may have babies and when – period.

Individuals will make bad decisions about the future of their children, for any number of reasons. This is nothing new. But most won’t. Most will make at least reasonable decisions. Only when governments become involved does it become likely that bad decisions will become institutionalized and enforced. And once individuals give up the responsibility of making such decisions to the political class -- good luck getting it back.

Flash Program said at September 29, 2009 11:49 AM:

My opinion is that eventually a license to reproduce will be required. Both for the benefit of the children and society as a whole. Individuals should have financial and psychological capacity to support and raise healthy individuals. Also a means to control population growth is needed, and one that doesn't depend on the whims of the majority aligning with the right course of action(sustainable reproduction rate), as such whims can be changed by things like certain religions spreading(say one that requires constant reproduction). Furthermore, there's the possibility of crippling children by using genetic tech or not using such tech to fix defects, by certain groups(deaf, blind, low iq, psychopathy, etc.). Clearly we can't have people with certain defects ensuring their children have such defects too, through action or inaction.

Once the technological means are attained to cleanse the genetic pool ethically and improve the human condition, use of such becomes the ideal path to follow.

Brian said at September 29, 2009 4:48 PM:

I would much prefer to have defects, even intentional defects in a diverse gene pool, then an increasingly rigid set of 'acceptable' genetic markers.
In the listed examples the transsexual has peculiar sexual habits, but there's no proof that makes the couple unsuitable parents. This argument was used with gays and adoption and disproven. I expect this decade we will see a biological male carry a child to term in an engineered uterus. These are reflections of means, and technology not suitability. Would high school sweethearts be more suitable? How about a cyborg without much meat left?

The cases of medical accidents, and choice between life of parent or child are tragic, but our system (medical and legal) addresses them adequately and has for at least as long as modern medicine has been with us. I would prefer a minimum of legislation on what treatments someone must or must not receive.

There is an externality, or perhaps 'tragedy of the commons' with respect to parents unable to care for their children. I see some arguments there that perhaps courts might have cause in specific situations to order a birth control method, it's hard to defend the octo-mom. Even that seems ripe for abuse however, who will decide what crime costs a person their right to breed and for how long?

Interfering directly with genetic diversity... well that might be good for individual children... perhaps. But it makes me especially nervous to have a bureaucrat deciding which genes are legal, and which must be removed. For the individuals, and the species.

The risk of centralizing too much control, is systemic failure. Even small amounts of damage when widespread can be catastrophic. If one of the adverse genetic markers chosen for removal also provides immunity to a specific disease for example, the number of deaths could easily exceed those saved.

Mthson said at September 30, 2009 7:55 AM:

"If one of the adverse genetic markers chosen for removal also provides immunity to a specific disease for example, the number of deaths could easily exceed those saved."

This is a common criticism, but it seems very vague and undefined. What kinds of diseases exactly are we talking about? Swine flu? If people could choose between a a 20% boost to resistance to swine flu or a 20 point boost to IQ + greater motivation + less need for sleep + a reduction in death rate from heart disease, cancer, etc., everybody would choose the latter.

Also, new flu diseases etc. will become more controllable with each decade of advancements, so it seems like at most we're talking about a very minor, temporary advantage at the cost of all future genetic advances.

Tony said at October 1, 2009 10:07 AM:

"My opinion is that eventually a license to reproduce will be required. Both for the benefit of the children and society as a whole. Individuals should have financial and psychological capacity to support and raise healthy individuals."

That would certainly make life a lot easier for your average normal responsible person (such as myself), but I would argue that it doesn't necessarily benefit the gene-pool or humanity as a whole. Diversity can be a huge benefit to the evolutionary process, and some people even see benefit from a horrible dysfunctional childhood that you would hope to avert:

Founders as Survivors: My hypothesis is that most children are emotionally damaged by this upbringing. But a small percentage, whose brain chemistry and wiring is set for resilience, come out of this with a compulsive, relentless and tenacious drive to succeed. They have learned to function in a permanent state of chaos. And they have channeled all this into whatever activity they could find outside of their home – sports, business, or …entrepreneurship.
(quote from Steve Blank: Founders and dysfunctional families)

pbundy said at October 1, 2009 2:42 PM:

A license to reproduce?!? And who might be in charge of that? I shudder to think.

As awful as some people are as parents, as much as they harm their children and society - I nevertheless think that the licensing of parenthood would be worse. Honestly - I have sympathy for the concept. And, I can see some very extreme cases where children should be removed from the home - perhaps as soon as they are born, in cases where their lives are clearly threatened.

Still, beyond that, my guess is that overall, there are too many diverse views of what constitutes "good parenting" for anyone to be in charge of who can become a parent and who cannot. Humanity has slogged along for centuries allowing "nature to take its course." It shouldn't stop now.

Of course, when the medical community has to intervene to determine who will become a parent.... that is something else altogether. Octomoms? No way!

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