A quick note about the lead question in The Ethicist today. (For those who are not avid followers, the ethicist is Ariel Kaminer. While I’m not sure what her qualifications are, she accepts ethical questions posed by NYT Magazine readers. In general I find the questions and her answers interesting and she’s a great deal better than the guy who originated the column and was opinionated without being thoughtful (in my opinion, of course.))
The question is posed by a woman who was an egg provider 15 years ago. She regrets this and has no interest in learning the outcome of the transaction. But now she’s getting married and thinking of having kids and she asks whether she should tell her fiance.
I think the answer given is quite thoughtful. The important thing to Kaminer is that the matter is important to the woman asking the question. If it’s this important to her, then it is something her fiance should know. This makes total sense to me–it is and quite likely will be on the asker’s mind as she begins her family. Not telling would (in my view–and remember I’m a big fan of honesty) complicate things as it seems likely to me that the husband would know there was something going on but wouldn’t know what.
Notice that this answer tangentially addresses another question. What if the provision of eggs didn’t loom large in the asker’s life? What if it was something from a long time ago that she rarely thought about. And let’s face it. we all did things when we were twenty that we have left behind in our past. If that’s the case, do you need to dig it out to disclose?
I think it’s pretty clear that the answer the ethicist would give is “no” and I concur. (I’m fairly sure others disagree which is why I bring it up here.) For me the issue here is about the relationship between the prospective spouses. That means the question becomes one of telling your partner/spouse about the important things that matter in your life. Whether being an egg provider is one of them is something only the person involved can decide.
I suppose what this reveals (again–there’s no news here) is that for me the importance of genetic linkage is personal and individual rather than universal. Where I think others assert that it is always (or at least nearly always) important, because it relates to something essential about who we are, I think the meaning of DNA varies much more widely. I thought it might be worth exploring this briefly via this post because I think this might be a slightly different way of stating what is a recurrent and fundamental disagreement here about how to understand the importance of the genetic link.