Category Archives: parentage

Money Troubles

There is a long story in today’s NYT which, while somewhat off-topic, illustrates the problematic role of money in a lot of the ART stuff I discuss here.  It’s about the commodification of breast milk.    While the story bears reading, the critical point to understand is that there is an emerging industry–and I do mean industry–built around processing breast milk.    One person calls it “white plasma”–which for me seems to echo the designation of oil as “black gold.”

There are doubtless many reasons why the industrialization of breast milk is disturbing even as its potential to save or enhance the lives of premature infants is clearly beneficial.   I just want to focus on one thing, though, and it has to do with money.

Human breast milk can only be obtained from one source–women.  The question raised in the article–and the one I want to think about here– is whether women should be paid to produce breast milk.   It’s easy for me to see the two sides.  Continue reading

To the Logical Conclusion?

I write about this story, not because I think we are really at the edge of this level of science (I don’t believe that we are) but because it gives me pause.    And I do think it is probably only a matter of time before what is discussed here is possible.

The idea is pretty simple:

In the future, it could even be possible for stem cells from a male to be used to produce an egg, allowing an infant to have two biological fathers

First off I have to wonder, purely on a technical level, if there is a reason this would work for men and not women.  I mean, if a man’s stem cells could be manipulated to produce and egg, couldn’t a woman’s stem cells be manipulated to produce sperm?  Perhaps not since the idea seems to me that men do have an X chromosome–which is where you’re getting the material for an egg—while women do not have a Y chromosome.   But really, I digress.  This isn’t my point.

I don’t have a general objection to all genetic engineering.  I see that it is rife with ethical issues.  Continue reading

And What To Make of This?

I know I’m being sort of scattershot here, but this caught my eye yesterday.     It’s a new procedure being introduced in Canada and truly, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Imagine people doing IVF. It doesn’t matter why or who or where the gametes come from.   Early on in the process the egg and sperm are placed in a petri dish, basically.   Apparently the general practice is to let them be for a few days, to allow for fertilization and initial development of pre-embryos.  I guess at that point one examines the contents of the dish and sees what’s what.   Viable embryos can be frozen or transferred to the uterus of whoever is going to carry them to term.

Of course, during that period that the eggs and sperm are in the petri dish, they have to be kept warm.   It sounds like general practice would be to use some sort of mechanical device–an incubator (or perhaps a warming oven?)

So here’s the new procedure.  Instead of that, you put the eggs and sperm in a plastic capsule and place the capsule in the vagina of the woman who is the intended mother.   Continue reading

Three Parents and A Child’s Need to Know Genetic Heritage

This is really just a tiny little post, because I’ve this question kicking around in my mind.  I read this post the other day that’s all about the mDNA and three-parent reproduction or whatever we are going to call it.

I’ve been persuaded over time that children should be able to have access to information about their genetic lineage if they want.   And I would include in that contact information for the person who provided gametes.   (I am well aware that we might call that person different things–genetic parent, parent, donor, whatever.  I’m skipping that point right now.)

I reach this conclusion because it seems apparent that to some people it is extremely important information, intertwined with their sense of identity.    I do not really understand why–I might speculate that this is socially constructed. But perhaps it doesn’t matter why because for people who have this Continue reading

A Sperm Donor’s Challenge and the Law’s Treatment of Genetic Connection

This New Jersey case has been on my mind for the last couple of days.  I’m a little worried about my understanding of New Jersey law (and I’m hoping someone can check me on it) but it seems to highlight some of the odd ways the law can work.

Sheena and Tiara Yates are a lesbian couple who live in Pennsville, New Jersey.   They have two children.   Both were conceived using sperm from men (two different men) who were meant to be donors.   As I understand the story, both men signed contracts that purported to give up any parental rights.    Yet each man changed his mind and each sued for recognition as a legal parent and the right to spend time with the child conceived with his sperm.  (Once you gain recognition as a legal parent, it’s far easier to claim an entitlement to time with the child.) One man won his case and the other has yet to be decided.  Continue reading

Surrogacy and Genetic Connection

This story–a fairly recent one–typifies the conflicting attitudes towards genetics that I think are often on view in public discussion and within families.   I don’t mean to offer any particular judgment about the actions detailed here.   I just want to point out what I think is an essential tension at the heart of this story.

Geromy Moore “always knew he wanted to be a parent.”  I don’t actually know whether that means that Moore always knew he wanted to raise a child–that is, to be a psychological parent–or whether that means he always knew he wanted to pass his genetic material on to the next generation.  Probably both? Certainly for many people these two things are deeply intertwined.

In any event, it appears that the genetic connection part mattered to him.  As the article concludes:  “having a child that has his genes was worth the time, money and legal wrangling.”

To accomplish this goal, Moore used gestational surrogacy.  (For more discussion on that, check out the tags on the right.)   As the article makes clear gestational surrogacy is an expensive and somewhat complicated route to parenthood.   Moore went to a California surrogacy center (since defunct) that in turn sent him to a surrogacy center in India.

But of course, Moore couldn’t create a child using his sperm alone.   He needed an egg.   Continue reading

Genetics As All Important–3 Parent Reproduction

Yesterday I noted that one of my two topics was an exploration of the incompatible (?) views of the importance of genetic connection in relation to parentage apparently held by those who support ART.   You can, of course, read yesterday’s post. (And probably you should read it.)   But the idea is that people who support use of and access to ART sometimes argue that genetics is all important (and therefore ART is crucial) and sometimes argue that genetics is unimportant (and hence sale and other transfer of eggs and sperm is just fine).

Here’s an example of the former.   This morning the British Parliament approved the use of IVF employing genetic material from three people.   Apparently Britain is the first country in the world to do so.

The idea here is that you might have a woman who carries some genetically heritable disease in her mitochondrial DNA.   If she is to reproduce using her own genetic material there are only two options.  One is to pass the defect to her child.   The other is to use mitochondrial DNA from another woman who does not have the same genetic defects.   (You can read about the process in more detail in earlier posts–search for mitochondrial DNA.)

I won’t take the time just now to discuss the risks and objections to the procedure.  That’s not my current point.  My point is merely this:  approval of this must be grounded on the belief (stated or otherwise) that it is very important that a woman be able to have a child who is genetically related to her (in the main, anyway).  So important that whatever the objections are, they do not outweigh her interests.

This is one instance where the “genetics is critical” argument is used and is used to great effect.  (The vote wasn’t that close.)     But many of the same people who make and use this argument have no trouble with the transfer of genetic material (eggs and sperm).   That’s what I intend to explore so I thought I’d just toss this out to get underway.