I’m interrupting my consideration of anonymity/secrecy to discuss a brand-new opinion from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). The opinion was issued this morning and you can read the full text if you like. I will, however, summarize what I see as the main points.
JS and VK are a married same-sex couple. JS gave birth to a child–called “Nicholas” by the court, but that’s not his real name–in 2014. The child was conceived using sperm from VK’s brother.
By operation of Massachusetts law, JS and VK were Nicholas’ legal parents from the very beginning. Continue reading
Sometimes it seems so difficult to make progress in thinking through these issues. This is one of those times. Yesterday I began consideration of anonymity and secrecy in the use of third-party gametes. Really it is just about secrecy–haven’t gotten to anonymity yet. I had it in mind that today I would move on. But the more I think about even the little bit I wrote, the more I find there is more to consider.
Though I think it is worth reading the last post (and yes, I’m biased here), I can put it in a nutshell: I think concealing the fact that you used third-party gametes from the child who was conceived with those gametes is a bad idea. (And just to be clear, I do not take the same position vis-a-vis the world in general. I don’t think you have any obligation to announce your use of third-party gametes generally.)
But what follows from that statement? Most obviously, if I were the person deciding, I’d be honest with the child and tell them about their origins. Probably no one objects to that. Many would agree that it falls within my discretion to tell. Continue reading
I spent this past weekend at a wonderful conference in Boston. Lots of very smart people thinking about ART and many things related to ART. One of the recurrent topics was the importance of anonymity those who provide gametes for third-party reproduction. (I know that this seems a very clunky way to put it–why not just say “sperm donors” and be done with it? There are reasons, as regular readers (of my now irregular blog) will know. For one thing, there’s the word “donor”–which is perhaps not the best word to use for people who are paid. For another, there are overlapping issues for egg providers, and it may be that the overlapping issues are converging. I cannot discuss all this here, but suffice it to say that I choose the clunky language deliberately.)
Anyway, one of the things that interested me was that many different questions were raised and there seemed to be some real disagreement in how to think about these questions. Since I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about anonymity in the past, I thought it might be time to revisit (and maybe reorganize?) my own thoughts on the subject. This could take a couple of posts, but I think it’s worth it.
So first off, there’s what one even means by anonymity. Anonymity is related to secret-keeping. An anonymous donor (in the philanthropic context) is one whose identity is kept secret. But when you think about third-party reproduction, you can think of different levels of secret-keeping. Continue reading
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