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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Just Because Someone Wants Something, Does That Mean Doctors Should Do It?



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The cultural ethic of "choice ubber alles" is growing increasingly radical. We have seen previously, that a few bioethicists have advocated that doctors be permitted to cut off healthy limbs of people suffering from Body Identity Integrity Disorder (BIID), also known as "amputee wannabe." People with the mental illness want to have one or more limbs amputated in order to be authentically themselves. There's even a WEB site and an association seemingly dedicated to opening up the possibility of doctors cutting off healthy limbs of people obsessed with becoming amputees.

Now, doctors are suggesting that to avoid disease (or perhaps for other reasons), cloning and IVF procedures could be done so that a child had three biological parents.

From the story in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Controversial legislation due to be debated by politicians this week sets out ways to allow test-tube babies to be created from the biological material from three parents.

The laws would allow an embryo to be created from the nucleus of one woman's egg, her partner's sperm and another woman's mitochondria, the material surrounding an egg's nucleus and which promotes cell growth. The Independent on Sunday said if the controversial legislation was approved, babies created using the cloning technique could be born within the next decade...

There is much to say about this. First, just because a couple wants a baby and can't have one without risking disease or to satisfy the desires of couples who both want to be the biological parents of offspring, but who could not otherwise be, doesn't mean doctors should engage in extreme manipulation of gametes in the creation of embryos to accommodate them. Our sense of entitlement in the West to have whatever we want based on our desires alone, seems to know no bounds.

Second, and more urgently: Perfecting and applying this technique would amount to unethical human experimentation--and not only at the nascent stages. We know there is a slight adverse affect to health outcomes in regular IVF procreation. And that merely involves sperm meeting egg. We know that SCNT-cloning leads to terrible problems in animals born from the technique. Who knows what the consequences might be to the born child by having been stitched together, as it were, from three parents? Or indeed, potentially to the health of the birth mother?

Back when IVF was being developed, some warned that it would lead us to believe that we not only have the right to a baby, but to manufacture and manipulate our offspring so that he or she is the baby we want. Those voices were not Luddite, they were prophetic.


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