Saturday, October 18, 2008

IVF: Unethical and Bizarre

IVF is unethical because it results in the deliberate destruction of innocent human life. But it is also bizarre. Here's an example of why: One Indian IVF clinic uses the cheery slogan "come as a couple; leave as a family" to attract clients interested in surrogate mothers. But as the now-notorious case of a Japanese baby illustrates, the dream of a family can easily turn into a nightmare.

A feature in Der Spiegel illustrates the complexities of surrogacy. Manjhi is a two-month-old baby now in a hospital ward in Jaipur. She has six mothers (who is her closest blood relation?):

Her first was the Japanese woman who commissioned her!?! with her husband, Dr Ikufumi Yamada. However, she divorced him a month before Manjhi’s birth. Her second is the anonymous Indian woman who provided an egg. Her third is the Indian woman who provided the womb. After Manjhi was born, no one knew whose child she was or what country she belonged in. Neither India nor Japan had clear rules on surrogacy. So Manjhi’s mother, on her birth certificate, is listed as "not recorded". She cannot get a passport.

But her fourth mother, her Japanese grandmother, Imiko Yamada, desperately wants to take her back to Japan. Mrs Yamada speaks no English and has been slowly negotiating her way through labyrinthine Indian bureaucracy. Under her care, unfortunately, Manjhi became ill and was hospitalized. There she has a fifth mother, a nurse, who cares for her. And a sixth mother breast-feeds her.

The case, famous now, grinds on in the Indian courts.
Meanwhile . . .
another dispatch from Lala Land: a quirk of IVF regulation in the state of South Australia has led to groups of lesbians being impregnated by the same man. The former chairman of the SA Council on Reproductive Technology, Andrew Dutney, says that he is aware of 30 lesbians in Adelaide who had children by the same “very generous” sperm donor ten years ago. The women used to organize picnics together for their families. In another case 29 women had children by the same donor. Since Adelaide is a city of less than a million, Dr. Dutney fears that there is a risk of unwitting incest amongst these children.


Sharon LaMothe said...

"IVF is unethical because it results in the deliberate destruction of innocent human life." What do you mean? In Vitro Fertilization destroys nothing but instead gives hope to life. I think YOU need to do your homework.

Sharon LaMothe
Infertility Answers, Inc.

verily prosaic said...

Thank you for your comment Sharon, though I respectfully disagree. As evidenced by the personal correspondence I carried on with Ronan O'Rahilly (see:, it is indeed evident that the being is a human being and is often destroyed through the IVF process.

The claim that IVF children are treated as products - a claim I make, at least in the early stages of their lives - is well supported by the evidence. Most IVF embryos are not implanted, much less carried to term, but are discarded if 'surplus' or damaged, frozen, with the risk of their dying in the process, or used in destructive experimentation. The donor or commissioning parent who gives up sperm or ova to be used in fertilization should be under no illusion as to the fate of most of the embryos so produced. The great majority of IVF patients are not prepared to welcome their offspring unconditionally; indeed, one study found that over 90% regarded the embryo as their property. It is, of course, true that a very small minority of IVF couples reject the creation of 'surplus' embryos, and ask for all their embryos to be transferred to the mother's body. While such couples are to be commended on their wish to accept all their children unconditionally, the dehumanizing structure of IVF cannot be said to help them to do so.

It may be objected that an embryo is not a child, and so need not be treated as a child. However, if a human being is not a purely spiritual entity, but a living human animal, the origin of the human being will be traceable to the origin of the human animal. That is, it will be traceable, in the majority of cases, to the fusion of the parents' gametes, though in the case of identical twinning it may be traceable to later, asexual reproduction. Once the human body exists, a human being exists who has interests and rights. There is, in other words, no such thing as a living human being or human body with subhuman moral status.

Moreover, it is simply - and I mean this is the fullest philosophical sense (think Husserl) - "absurd" to claim as you do that IVF "destroys nothing."

Keep on keepin' on.

Battle Axe said...

Right on Verily Prosaic. Sharon Lamonthe needs to due HER homework. How could she think that IVF destroys nothing? If embryo's are nothing - then how do they "give hope to life"?

Surrogacy said...

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