Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fertility meets Frankenstein

The Vancouver Sun just concluded a series on the business of fertility, which it accurately calls the "Wild West of medicine."
The most remarkable part of the series was that despite its hand-wringing tone, it adamantly refused to admit the obvious: the Wild West badly needs a sheriff.
Here are just a few of the horrors taking place in the largely unregulated field of fertility.
  • Fertility is first and foremost a business. So fertility doctors offer women the chance to bank their frozen eggs, despite the procedure being regarded as experimental and unproven.
  • It’s not uncommon for fertility doctors to implant three or more embryos into women in the hope that one of them will survive.
  • When numerous embryos develop, some women choose the innocuously named "fetal reduction,” a “relatively simple procedure" in which unwanted fetuses are “terminated using a solution of potassium chloride injected via an ultrasound-guided needle into the fetal heart."
  • The RCMP is investigating cases of alleged buying and selling of human reproductive material – sperm, egg cells or surrogate wombs.
  • Women in India are bearing babies for infertile Canadian couples who travel there to circumvent the ban on hiring of surrogates in Canada.
  • An Ottawa doctor (and Order of Canada recipient) faces two civil lawsuits alleging he inseminated two women with the wrong sperm (suspected to be his own).
  • A sperm-injection technique that allows infertile men to father a child is increasingly being used despite concerns over its safety.
For years it's been possible for a child to be conceived using donor eggs, donor sperm and surrogate mothers. Now it looks like assisted reproduction is about to move from a niche to a mass market in Canada. Just before Christmas, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down what little fertility legislation there was. The Wild West patchwork of the past has been transformed into complete anarchy.
Leave it to ethicist Margaret Somerville to provide a breath of fresh air. She says assisted procreation is “aimed at a take-home baby. That's what everyone is in this for.

“But ultimately, this is a new human being. And what we have not done in any of this is put that new human being at the centre of our decision making."

That’s the only real voice of sanity in the series. There isn’t a single word about the morality of “selective reduction.” There is no discussion of how women and babies are being packaged and sold in a world that considers the commodification of water obscene.
And as if things couldn’t possibly get worse, they’re going to get worse. One bioethicist predicts the technology is “only going to get more complicated, the options are only going to get greater and once you open the door, you can't ever pull back.”

The encyclical Humanae Vitae nailed it in 1968 when Pope Paul VI urged man “not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns this artificial manipulation of life, saying it "entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person.”
The old Wild West may have been rough, but at least there was a sheriff to represent law and order. In the new Wild West the sheriff’s been run out of town and the populace are at the hands of the outlaws.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    I was going to email you personally but I did not see a link to your email. I came across this blog post and then searched your blog for napro and did not see anything listed. I would like to suggest that you put a link on your blog about NPT. If you have any questions please let me know.
    http://www.fertilitycare.org/ search for medical consultant and then Canada


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