Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Save the Eggs, Not the Embryos

Natallie Evans and Howard Johnson (not to be mistaken for the Hotel Chain) in happier times

An interesting ethical and legal dilemma:

6 years ago, a young British woman was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. With her then-partner, they fertilized and froze 6 embryos before she would lose all her eggs due to cancer treatment. Flash forward to today: after years of personal and legal wrangling, the woman lost her final appeal to use those frozen embryos, along with her last possible chance to have a biological child of her own (though technically, someday cloning and other options may be available to her).

The European Court of Human Rights basically ruled that both the egg donor and the sperm donor must consent to the use of the embryos and since, in this case, the woman and the man are so antagonistic that they have taken their private matter to the courts, it is clear that both parties are not in agreement.
I feel sorry for this 34-year-old woman: she has been through cancer and legal wrangling over a very sensitive issue. I don't know the details here but clearly both sides are lacking some empathy for the other person's situation. It is understandable that the woman would want a biological child of her own (after this court ruling, the 6 embryos will be destroyed). It is also understandable that the man would not want a child with a woman he is not with and does not want to be with.

Ultimately, the ruling seems to make sense -- just think: if people could produce children with the genetic material of unconsenting others, the legal ramifications could be taken to ridiculous extremes that could see individuals seeking child support for such children!

But the biggest question is: why would this woman want to have a child from this stubborn, unfriendly, unsupportive man who left her alone during a serious illness and put her through years of court-rulings once she'd managed to recover? If she's happy having just 50% genetic material from someone she cares about, then she should have a child with the man who she is in a loving relationship with, which means she's still got a lifetime's chance ahead of her.

It's all about attitude. Always.