I’ve written several times in the past years about how new technologies have raised the prospects of a child having three genetically related parents. Most of the discussion has occurred in the UK, but the debate has now reached the US.
The idea here is that egg cells have both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from only from mother to child (and indeed, as I recall it is used to track lineages, sometimes over hundreds of years.) Fathers do not contribute mitochondrial DNA.
Nuclear DNA in an egg combines with DNA from the sperm when the egg is fertilized. Nuclear DNA controls virtually all of the things we think about when we think about genetic heritability–height, weight, eye color, hair color and so on. I believe that, to the extent more complicated things are also controlled by DNA (say tendency towards cancer or alcoholism) it is also nuclear DNA that matters.
But mitochondrial DNA is important. Continue reading
Just a brief post here on a particularly interesting article prominently featured in today’s NYT. It’s about preimplantation genetic diagnosis–also called PIGD. This is a topic I have written about before.
The idea with PIGD is simple, though the issues raised are anything but. When one does IVF the pre-embryos grow to something around an 8-cell stage in a petri dish. Without causing any harm to the developing embryo you can take one of those cells and do all kinds of genetic testing on it. It is that ability to do genetic testing that presents ethical quandaries.
Of course, some people will say that all IVF is bad/immoral Continue reading
I wanted to add a couple more notes about the Florida opinion I wrote about a couple of days ago. And while I’m doing that, there’s a Nevada opinion from just a little while back (October 3) that I wanted to tie in here. It’s virtually a mirror image of the FL case.
First, two more points about the FL case–what I think of as the good and the bad, really. And these are taking a step away to get a little bit of a longer view.
The good: From what I can tell (and I do not have any access to the facts) the court decided this case in a way that I think reflects the reality of the family life that gave rise to it. There are many indications that both women functioned as parents to this child during the first two years of the child’s life. Continue reading
Someone (ki sarita, in fact) raised an excellent question in an early comment on the last post: Why would you call Monica Schissel a surrogate when she is a pregnant woman and she is genetically related to the fetus she carries? There is some discussion of this in the last post, but I’ve been thinking about it more generally. This leads me to some observations that might be useful or, failing that, at least interesting.
It seems to me you can think about pregnant women as falling into one of four categories. Here they are:
A: Intending to be parent and genetically related to embryo
B Intending to be parent and NOT genetically related to embryo
C NOT intending to parent and genetically related to embryo
D. NOT intending to parent and NOT genetically related to embryo. Continue reading
The last of my really sporadic posts concerned a new story about Liam Burke, a child born a little under a year ago. His mother–and here I mean the woman who gave birth to him who is also his legal mother and his social mother–is Kelly Burke. The embryo that became Liam was transferred to Kelly’s uterus after it had spent 19 years cryogenically preserved. (You can just go read the post, if you like.)
Anyway, the story has surfaced again and this time a couple of other things struck me. In fact, I found echoes of the issues raised by the more recent post about the underground market for children.
Here’s the thing. The embryo in question was given to Kelly Burke by a couple who had created these embryos 19 years earlier when they were having children. Continue reading
I know I’ve been a very bad blog host, and I hope you all understand why–see the last post if you must. It’s just a busy time. But since it makes me fret when I don’t post I thought I’d put something quick up this evening before the second-to-last leg of the family event marathon. (This is son-to-college. Next (and last) is daughter-starts-high-school.)
Anyway, this story caught my eye today. Liam James Burke was born sometime earlier this year. An ordinary baby save for one thing: He was born after an embryo created 19 years ago was transferred to Kelly Burke’s uterus. That’s a remarkably long time for a frozen embryo to be preserved and then successfully transferred. Then again, perhaps we don’t really know how long they might remain viable.
The embryos had originally been created for an Oregon couple. Continue reading
There’s a story in today’s NYT that reminds me of a couple of others I have blogged about here. They are all slight variations on the same theme, I think.
Jonathan Sporn and Leann Leutner were a long-time but unmarried couple. (The unmarried part turns out to be critical.) They wanted to start a family but had trouble conceiving. They ended up using IVF and (also critically) sperm from a third-party. Lincoln Amory Aurelian Sporn Leutner was born last July.
Sadly, Leutner died January 1. Now the question is what becomes of Lincoln. Continue reading
In November I wrote about a case that had just been argued before the Virgina Supreme Court. At issue was the parental status of William Breit. He and his then-girlfriend, Beverly Mason, wanted to have a child. They ended up using IVF. When the couple split up, Mason tried to prevent Breit from having contact with the child, arguing that he was a sperm donor and not a legal parent.
It’s critical that they weren’t married–had they been married, he clearly would have been a legal father. But Virginia’s statutory structure gave Mason a simple argument. The statutes themselves are quoted in the earlier post, but suffice it to say that Virginia is one of those states where the statutes say that a man who provides sperm for use by a woman who is not his wife is not a parent. That’s what was done here (argued Mason), so it would follow that Breit was not a parent.
Now as it happened Breit had a whole bunch of arguments for why this wasn’t the proper outcome in his case. Continue reading
Yesterday I put up a post about a recent case involving posthumously conceived children–which is to say, children conceived with sperm that had been frozen. You can think of this as a problem created from our ability to keep reproductive materials in long-term storage. Here’s another storage problem that comes up with some regularity–and also one I know I’ve written about before, though I cannot find where. (A bit frustrating, I must say.)
Sometimes couples who are splitting up have frozen embryos to deal with. That was the problem in this instance. Godlove Mbah and Honorine Anong had been married. While they were married they created embryos via IVF and a daughter (now three) was born. There were extra embryos that were frozen for possible future use. And then the couple split up. What happens to those extra embryos? Continue reading
I’m taking a detour from ongoing conversation here to write about a case currently pending in Virginia. It was argued before the Virginia Supreme Court this fall and should be decided in the new year. This being the case, I think it is worth taking a few moments to sum it up. It is one of those cases that falls (or nearly falls) between the cracks in various statutory structures. You can read the lower court opinion or this blog post, too, if you want more info.
Billy Breit and Beverly Mason were a long-term cohabiting couple. They weren’t married–which turns out to be a very important detail. They wanted to have a child. Intercourse alone did not work so they consulted a fertility doctor. The doctor used Breit’s sperm to fertilize eggs extracted from Mason and then transferred to resulting embryo into Mason’s womb. In time this worked and a child (Lillian) was born on July 13, 2009. Continue reading