Skip to comments.Infertility and Selective Abortion: Steering a Course Between Scylla and Charybdis
Posted on 10/03/2012 10:30:58 AM PDT by Kaslin
A lot of people, conservatives in particular, tend to idealize the past. We like to wax lyrical about simpler times, the "good old days." Of course, if we are honest we have to admit that those good old days weren't always so great. The passage of time and progress of society have brought many blessings civil, cultural, and technological. Society today is freer, fairer, safer, and more comfortable. Unfortunately many of the blessings of progress come at a cost. The same technologies that make life healthier and more comfortable can also present us with previously unimagined ethical dilemmas. This principle was illustrated recently in an open letter published in Slate magazine's "Dear Prudence" feature. "Prudence" dispenses "advice on manners and morals" to those struggling to navigate the complexities of life in the 21st century.
This particular edition featured a letter from a woman who became pregnant with quintuplets after being treated for infertility. Fearful of total miscarriage or severe disability of one or more babies, she opted for "selective reduction" and gave birth to twins. The intention of the woman and her husband had always been to keep this decision a secret from the surviving twins, but her father has been threatening to tell his grandchildren because he believes that family secrets are harmful and wrong. What should she do? In rendering her advice, Prudie assures her that she made a "painful, but medically sound choice."
This situation illustrates a unique kind of ethical dilemma made possible by the amazing progress of medical technology over the past several decades. Unwilling to accept the fact of her infertility, this woman and her husband turned to technology to create life where none previously existed. Unfortunately, this solution delivered up more than they bargained for, and they made the decision to kill three children in order to improve the prognosis for two. A couple with no children became parents of five thanks to the miracle of modern science, but then they chose to correct this technological "glitch" by aborting three of their babies to arrive at a more manageable figure.
Prudence reassures this woman that her decision was medically sound, but would she also maintain that it was ethically sound? Because the "odds" are that one or more of her quintuplets would have been disabled, did that warrant the destruction of three human lives? Are the lives of two developmentally normal children worth more than the lives of five disabled children? Does the mere "chance" of disability warrant the destruction of an unborn child? In many European countries the answer to this question appears increasingly to be "yes." Thanks to prenatal testing that predicts the odds of chromosomal abnormalities, Downs Syndrome and other developmental disabilities are all but extinct because women are aborting their babies rather to avoid facing the possibility of having a child with special needs.
It seems monstrous to put any parent in the position of having to choose which of their children live and which die. Yet this kind of scenario is increasingly common due to the increase in reliance upon fertility technology and the multiple pregnancies that often result. Is it ethical to create a situation where a mother is inevitably going to be faced with a prenatal version of Sophie's Choice? Didn't we all hate the Nazi who visited that decision on Sophie?
Technology brings us many blessings, but it is fraught with danger as well. Sadly, many who seek to avail themselves of the benefits of technology fail to look down the road and contemplate the dangers associated with its use. Fertility technology has become so commonplace that few question its ethical implications. But if we are indeed an ethical and compassionate society, we must ask whether it is a good thing for mankind to play God with respect to the creation and destruction of human life. What equips us to make such decisions? Are we all-knowing, perfectly just, and perfectly loving? Can we always be sure that we're doing the right thing, making the right choices? Are we prepared to bear responsibility for the consequences of these choices? And what about the three who were sacrificed so that their siblings would have a better chance of life without disability? Did they have a choice in the decision? Shouldn't they? Didn't they have a huge stake in the outcome of the decisions being made?
Because this family chose to "play God" with respect to the creation and destruction of human life, five lives were created, but only two survived. Now, years later the impact of that decision may affect the emotional health of their surviving children and is driving a wedge of mistrust and resentment between father and daughter. Let this be a cautionary tale for a society that takes its technology for granted. Before we elect to steer a course between Scylla and Charybdis, we should think long and hard about the consequences and collateral damage of our decisions.
Should it really matter to anyone what someone else thinks of their ethics?
This has been going on for decades and is pure selfishness on the part of the parents. God help them.
There are facets to this that are less controversial, but need the help of technology.
For example, fetuses are becoming increasingly large, due to healthier diets, but women’s organs are not adjusting to be able to deliver larger babies.
This means that more and more deliveries are being made by Cesarian section. And if women cannot get such surgery, it can kill both their child and them. (Granted, Cesarian section has been done since Biblical times.)
It might be a natural remedy for this, that instead of having one big baby, women would have more normal sized twins. And this could be where technology would pay off, by stimulating the fertilized embryo to divide in two.
Just one possibility.
Having spent my entire career in NICU and L&D, Postpartum...hard to know where to begin, but just, NO.
Behavior replicates in a society: by explicit approval, by widespread acceptance, by imitation, by application of its underlying assumptions to another situation, etc.
It's like a sociologial law: it always replicates, unless it is rejected by the opposite means: by disapproval, by widespreak non-acceptance, by practice of the opposite, by the refutation of the underlying assumptions.
So if you don't want to lived in a society in which the killing of innocent human beings is widely replicated, you should make sure it is widely rejected.
There will always be people that do not act as society would want them to, but societies and it’s members change at different rates and the asociated replication changes with them, right?
First of all, bigger babies are not being caused by better nutrition. Maternal diabetes is by far the most common cause of LGA babies. Diabetes during pregnancy causes the mother's increased blood glucose to circulate to the baby; the baby then makes insulin. All the extra sugar and the extra insulin production can lead to excessive growth and deposits of fat, thus, a larger baby.
Solution Pat A, prevent or treat maternal diabetes.
Second, twinning the conceived child wouldn't help. Where did you get that idea? Monozygotic twins develop within 2 weeks of fertilization, i.e. almost always the twinning split occurs before the mother knows she is pregnant.
If she's diabetic and carrying twins, she could have TWO large-for-gestational-age babies in there at once.
And five? That's almost certainly the result of either hyperovulatory drugs, or IVF.
Solution Part B, ban hyperovulatory drugs, ban IVF.
I’ll readily cede to the better informed.
Let’s please understand the science of fertility treatments.
There are ways to never destroy any baby or embryo.
One cheap way to supposedly (debatable as it has some harmful side effects) increase fertility is to take a pill called Clomid, which will allow more than one egg to ripen in a cycle. Women can get this from other women in the black market so this can be abused. This can lead to multiples.
Another poor way to increase fertility is to have your doctor prescribe injectible fertility meds, which can cause a whole passel of ripening eggs in one cycle, and then at trigger time have either sex with the husband or even an insemination. This supposedly is controlled by the good doctor checking the follicles on ultrasound and then if too many are ripening to tell the couple TO ABSTAIN under risk of high order multiple conceptions. There could be unscrupulous doctors as well as over zealous parents.
The latter is probably how this couple got into the situation.
IVF, as scary as it sounds to pro-lifers, can be as pro life as you are!! Moreso! I am a walking, talking example. While the woman does take fertility drugs to increase the number of eggs, the eggs are then harvested out through a pipette and kept in the lab. They can then be fertilized one at a time or in a bunch by the collected sperm on the husband. The then teeny embryos can be placed back in the uterus (a doctor malpractices if he places back more than 2) or frozen with no ill effects. There is no need to destroy a one.
However, about half of them are not good. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Just as about half on average of embryos created by sex in a wife,s Fallopian tubes are not good. They will never become a baby. We can’t tell without testing which embryos have a chance of developing even until the 13th week of pregnancy. Ask around. Many women have had early miscarriages and this is why — the embryo was messed up in the chromosomes and would never develop, either at all or long enough to make it into the 2nd trimester. This is natural.
Some families going in for IVF end up with the number of kids they wish to raise, and extra embryos besides. They are given a choice: have those extra embryos destroyed, donated to science (destroyed), or donated. My beautiful precious baby girl is from a wonderful family’s donation. They could have had her destroyed! I almost can’t fathom that. Instead, she is loved and adored and please Gd may she live a good, long, happy life. And the joy of caring for her prenatally and from birth adds to our happiness as parents.
So don’t throw the baby out with the bath water (I did not say that! Sheesh!)
IVF is a good thing and has made many freepers happy parents.
If none of this occurs, then what happens is replication: the behavuor is tolerated as a harmless deviation, a matter of personal taste, then as a role model, an inspiraiton for similar behavior to greater and greater degrees.
As for this doctor who killed 3 of the conceived children deliberately? I think that should be illegal, and he or she should lose their license to practice medicine. Every OB/GYN has both the mother and the prenatal children as patients. A doctor should never intentionally kill his patients.
Opinion forums, like this one, should also be used to voice disapproval.
In your case, you have received a precious blessing, but it was from --- I don't like saying this --- something that was inherently morally objectionable. The deliberate creation of human offspring without the very minimum needed for their overall security: that minimum includes being conceived in their mother's womb.
Conception in the mother's womb is inarguably normal; this other procedure, which exposes the embryos to excess risk or even to extermination, is subnormal.
There are something like 500,000 frozen human beings, frozen at the embryonic stage, in cold storage, inm this country alone --- multiples of that worldwide --- and the vast majority of them will never be adopted and gestated. They will deteriorate slowly, as any fozen entity deteirorates, and then they will either be used as experimental material, or discarded.
The people who caused these lives to be intentionally concocted and exposed to excessive risk --- the egg-mothers and sperm-fathers, clinic entrepreneurs, investors, technicians, marketers and staff --- are together responsible for this frozen-progeny problem, which is massive, morally insoluble, and repugnant.
That is in NO WAY attributable to you or your daughter, who are innocent of the initial wrongful choice to bring others into existence in a way that generates huge, ongoing ethical dilemmas.
Yaelle, it's no offense to you. I blame the ethically untethered IVF industry.