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
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
Posted in parentage
Tagged ART, IVF
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
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
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.
I have a number of comments in moderation at the moment, but before sifting through them I wanted to comment on this story. I’m sure many of you have already seen it and there has been lots of interesting commentary, too.
It seems that some tech companies–Apple and Facebook–are now offering to pay to have female employees freeze their eggs. This is as part of an array of fertility related health benefits. I’ve written about egg freezing in the past. This is a relatively new technology and we really haven’t seen how it will play out yet. But I remain somewhat skeptical about the offer made by these “generous” employers. (We should all bear in mind that what motivates them is not generosity but rather the desire to maintain a competitive edge. Apparently other industries–like big law firms–may be following right behind in providing this benefit.)
The problem being solved here is that it seems fairly clear that “young ” eggs (say those that are 20-30 years old) are most likely to produce healthy babies. Continue reading
I know I’ve been mostly absent. Just so you all know, it’s simply that kind of semester. I’ve been wildly busy with teaching and writing and so, until things settle down, this is on the back-burner.
That said, there’s a recently filed lawsuit that I have seen discussed many places. Need I say that I am tempted to add my own two cents? And so I shall.
The facts are pretty simple and this leads to a very brief version of them. An Ohio lesbian couple used sperm from a sperm bank. They put in a request for a particular donor and were given the wrong one. This was an error on the part of the sperm bank. In this case, the women, who are both white, had asked for a white donor and they were mistakenly given a Black donor. Thus, the resulting child is mixed race. And they’re suing for damages.
Many people have found this lawsuit troubling. I don’t think it has much to do with the parents being a lesbian couple–I think you’ve have the same issues with a straight couple. As some frame it, the question the case raises is whether they can claim to be harmed because their child isn’t white. Continue reading
There’s a story that has been all over the media the last few days involving an Australian couple who used a Thai surrogate. I’m sure you can find a dozen different versions of the story, but I’ll start with this one from the Washington Post. One of the reasons I’ll use this one is that it makes it clear that a lot of the details are unknown and/or unclear.
That said, here’s the bare-bones account. (I’m trying to stay to the facts we know, but I think I have to make some assumptions, too. I’ll try to identify them.). An unnamed (and presumably heterosexual) Australian couple went to Thailand to hire a surrogate. (While it doesn’t say this, I think we can assume that part of the reason they went to Thailand is that compensated surrogacy is prohibited in Australia.)
Pattaramon Chanbua is a 21-year-old Thai woman. She is food vendor and earns $622 per month. A surrogacy agency offered to pay her somewhere between $9300 and $16,000 to serve as a surrogate. She agreed to do so. Continue reading
There’s something weird about the ebb and flow in the media attention to surrogacy. You seem to get a blast of positive coverage and then, a few weeks later, a corresponding blast of negative coverage. Right now we are clearly in negative territory, as this article nicely shows. It’s about the black market for surrogacy that currently exists in China–and apparently exists on a pretty large scale. (The article quotes an estimate of “well over 10,000 birth a year.” That is a pretty huge number (though of course, China has an enormous population.)
No one could mistake this for a positive article. As with most black market enterprises, black market surrogacy is rife with abuse and exploitation. While the surrogates employed by one agency (Baby Plan) are (to my mind, anyway) surprisingly well-paid ($24,000), the conditions under which they operate seem nightmarish to me: Continue reading
I’m sure many of you saw and read this story that was in the NYT a couple of days ago. The headline (“Coming to US for a Baby, and Womb to Carry It”) doesn’t really do it justice. While it is, in fact, a story about the US as a destination for what is sometimes called reproductive tourism, it isn’t only that. It’s full of interesting little points about surrogacy and many of the hard questions surrogacy raises. From my point of view, this makes it hard to know where to begin. So I guess I’ll just dive in……
The article does a nice job of at least touching on some of the issues that can arise with surrogacy. So, for example, the question of compensation is raised. Do you pay a surrogate? How much and for what? Perhaps it isn’t clear that even within the US there’s enormous variation on the approach to compensation–from making compensation illegal to facilitating it.
Does the exchange of money mean that surrogacy exploits women? Continue reading