Back in March I put up a post about a column by David Dodge, who is a sperm donor for lesbian couples who are friends of his. (The idea is that he will be known to the child but will not function as a parent.) It was on the Motherlode blog (run by the New York Times).
Well, now it turns out that this is to be a weekly series under the name “Sperm Donor Diary.” This in itself is probably a sign of the times. Last week he posted about euphemisms, describing a conversation about what he was doing he had with, among others, an 11 year old brother. I didn’t comment on that, but it is surely worth a look. (It also strikes me that each of the first two columns in the series have a great deal to do with language–a reminder of how important the words we choose are.) One thing notable (and also carried over from the first entry) is the degree of openness in the process underway. This, I think, bodes well for the future. No secrets means no tension about letting secrets out.
Anyway, here is this week’s post and it has prompted me to write. Tori and Kelly are the lesbian couple involved. Kelly is pregnant (and the baby is due in July.) That’s as much as we knew in the past, I think, and it really isn’t that unusual. But it turns out that both Kelly and Tori provided eggs that were fertilized in vitro using Dodge’s sperm. Continue reading
First off, thanks to Natalie Gamble and Bill Singer for pointing me towards this case. It’s actually a nice complement to the Jason Patric case, which has been the focus of a lot of recent discussion here.
A lesbian couple in the UK wanted to have children. One woman provided eggs. (She’s the genetic mother.) These were fertilized in vitro and the resulting embryos were transferred to the other woman’s uterus. (She’s the gestational mother.) The gestational mother gave birth to twins.
Both women cared for the children with the genetic mother assuming the role of stay-at-home mom. As some point one of the earlier-created embryos was transferred to the uterus of the genetic mother and a third child was born. (The third child is a full genetic sibling to the twins.) Continue reading
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