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The Wrong Embryo

Jesus Creed linked to this article and asks, “Would you abort a fetus because it wasn’t yours?”  You have to read the article to get the full nature of the ethical problems associated, but it starts with a hospital doing an IVF but accidentally implanting the wrong embryo.  What happens after that is a mess.

From William Saletan in Slate:

Here’s the time line, as far as we know: On Sept. 18, the doctor transferred two of the woman’s embryos to her womb. On Sept. 20, he added a third embryo—the unrelated one. On Oct. 7, he told her she was pregnant. Around Oct. 16, he started to suspect the growing embryo wasn’t hers. On Nov. 7, he explained what had happened and told her she was probably carrying another woman’s child. On Nov. 11, with the couple’s consent, the pregnancy was aborted.

It gets worse.  She was implanted with three embryos, not one.  Two of the three were hers, but one was from a second woman.  Two didn’t make it, and one did.  But which one?  They didn’t wait to find out, and now there is no way to know.  The hospital seemed to think the third one belonged to the second woman, but I can find no reason why (although they may have a good reason). 

Saletan sees the problem mainly from a pro-choice standpoint:  There was a second woman who had a fertilized egg ready to be implanted.  It was implanted in some other woman.  This second woman lost a child through not fault of her own.  What were her rights?  Read it, and I think you’ll find Saletan as fair as he can be coming from a pro-choice view.

From a pro-life standpoint:  What about the child?  The answer is simple – life has value.  If we must err, let’s err on the side of life.  It’s a shame this had to happen.

On a larger scale, all of this points to the pitfalls of letting technology get ahead of ethics.  In this case, there are no standards for what should happen.  We are so anxious to create life (rather than letting God create) that we don’t stop to consider possible outcomes.   Even worse, when we don’t get the creation we want (in this woman’s case, a child who is biologically mine) we end a life. 

Furthermore, why is such importance put on the fact that the child must be biological offspring?  While I acknowledge this desire, when the desire becomes so significant that it results in abortion, then haven’t we put the needs of parents in the place of the needs of the child?  Are we having children to fulfill the desires of parents instead of the desires of God? 

This story is tragic on many levels – for the first woman, who ended with an abortion; for the second woman, who may or may not ever have a child; and for the child who was aborted.  Most of all, it saddens God.

  1. mikewittmer
    March 21, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    This makes Obama’s “separation from science and religion” even scarier. Who is going to tell the doctors what they can and can’t do? Or have we already crossed the line and it’s too late to turn back now?

  2. jlemke
    March 21, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Good point about Obama’s position – I heard the quote but hadn’t made the connection. Right now, it seems like no one decides except the doctors and patients.

    Christian doctors and Christian patients can both have some influence if they are informed. Unfortunately, most aren’t.

  3. Brian D.
    March 23, 2009 at 11:39 am

    We debated a case similar to this the other day in class. In the end all we had was two sides that did not agree with the other. While for the most part everyone agreed that life should come first.

    The area that we could not agree on was whose ethics and moral standards do we follow, at this point, for the next four years it seems we are going to follow President Obama’s.

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