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
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 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
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.
So it has been many many weeks–indeed many months, I think–since I have written here. Truth be told there’s no really good reason why. (I know, maybe I don’t have to have a why, but still I wonder.) I can offer different explanations for different bits of time. But really, what’s the point.
The thing is, I am back. Or at least, I’m going to try to be back. I’m going to consider this a restart. I mean, I won’t try for the moment to pick up the threads that were active. And my apologies to all those who have comments lost in moderation. They cannot (for now) be a high priority.
I’m going to keep this post short. All I want to do is sketch out two topics I mean to approach in the comings weeks/months. Of course, I’ll cover current events from time to time–they are far to interesting to resist. But in terms of through threads, I have two in mind right now.
The first is prompted by the increasingly broad recognition of marriage between same sex couples. There are now, I think, 36 states (plus DC) where same-sex couples’ marriages are recognized. Many of these have been forced into recognition by court orders. A smaller number (including my own state of Washington) reached that point via legislative or similar processes. And the United States Supreme Court has agreed to take on the marriage questions and will likely hear four related cases on the topic in late April. A decision would come by the end of June. Continue reading