Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Genetic Material

A woman left infertile after cancer therapy has lost her fight to use embryos fertilised by an ex-partner.

Natallie Evans has been fighting for nearly 5 years to keep the embryos from being destroyed.

None of the articles I have read thus far have represented her ex-boyfriend's point of view and I really wish they would. I want to know why he would begrudge her the use of the embryos. I am sure he could legally sever his parental rights and responsibilities to the children which may result from these embryos.

I agree that a person has a right to determine what happens to their genetic material and I don't believe anyone should be forced to have children they don't want, but this man entered into IVF treatment with his girlfriend. It isn't like she tricked him into getting her pregnant (employing the "I'm on the pill and I don't think I am fertile anyway" trick). It isn't as if she collected his sperm from him in the dead of night with the aid of oral sex, a turkey baster, and a test tube. It is possible he felt pressured to contribute his genetic material to this enterprise because his then girlfriend had cancer. But wouldn't you think the same guilt that got you to spill your seed into the cup would also keep you from phoning up the clinic and saying you changed your mind? He must realize this is her only chance at having her own genetic children (and given her health history, she may have difficulty adopting children, so this may be her only shot at motherhood, period). So why would he deny her the right to have the embryos implanted, why would he insist the embryos be destroyed? How bad was their breakup anyway?

Natallie Evans has claimed that destroying the embryos would be denying her a basic human right. In one sense, she is right, getting our DNA into the next generation is an essential human right and, if you think about it, the only real reason we exist (well, that and raising our DNA's hosts so that the DNA can be represented in future generations). However, I have often argued that parenthood is a privilege, not a right. It isn't necessarily fair that some people get pregnant just from swimming in the same pool as a member of the opposite sex while
others can try and try and still remain childless, but that is how things are.

I have wondered if the brave new world that medicine has given us, this world of test tube babies and hormonal injections, has created a world of overly high expectations and harder to swallow disappointments. Years ago, people who couldn't have children would adopt. Now, they still may adopt, but there are all these options available which make it possible to have your own biological child. You hear people say that they want to try to have their "own" child, as if an adopted child is somehow less yours because they don't share your genetic material. Years ago, surviving ovarian cancer would have been enough to be grateful for and Natallie Evans would not have had to spend five years fighting only to have to come to terms with the fact that she can not be a mother, at least to genetically related children. The average cost of adopting a child is around $40,000, while there are laws (in some states at least) which force insurance companies to cover a few rounds of IVF. Are we really better off now than we were forty years ago?

I am aware that I say this as a woman who was lucky enough to experience pregnancy, childbirth, and the joys of seeing my husband's and my own features in my son's face. Perhaps it is unfair of me to ask the questions I am asking. But, as I said, life isn't fair.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Toby said...

Luckily for us all, reproducing isn't a guaranteed right. But more importantly, this whole case seems quite crazed in a world bristling with orphaned children. No one has denied this woman the right to raise a child, even if fate appears to have done for her chances of having one biologically.

4:35 PM, April 14, 2007  
Blogger alimum said...

While I totally agree with you, there is a very real possibility that given her past health history, this woman would have difficulty adopting a child. Parenthood isn't a guaranteed right and agencies have rules to protect children from people who, perhaps, should not be adopting (though, sadly, this sometimes means that good people who would make great parents are excluded because of past health and mental problems or simply due to age).

I have actually read a number of recent articles by women who have suffered from cancer of reproductive organs who all said that whether or not they would have children was their first and foremost consideration, that dying was something that was so far off their radar that it took awhile for them to realize that it was about life or death. Maybe I have always been aware that ovarian cancer is REALLY BAD and that we all have to get PAP smears (and maybe we should all get the HPV vaccine) that I can't imagine even worrying about children. But then, I am lucky and can only imagine how I would react if I were given such news.

5:11 PM, April 14, 2007  

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