The Right to a Child

The Right to a child and Ethical applications

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The Right to a Child

women have the feeling they were made to have children, it is survival instinct to carry on a generation.

Many different techniques: ART->designed to increase number of sperm/eggs. AI-> involves inspecting sperm into woman's reproductive tract. IVF-> eggs and sperm are taken from partners and mixed in a petri dish to enhance fertilisation. GIFT-> remove the eggs, mix it with sperm and immediately place it in fallopian tubes.

Does egg/sperm have moral status? Are we dehumanising aspects of biological procedures?

you have left over embryos which can be stored, frozen, donated to medical research or thrown away.

Although church does have some sympathy with those who can't conceive, they do not see it as legitimate to treat a human embryo as experimental or as a disposable material. Life is God's gift and we do not have a right to children. Means to aid birth between a husband and wife are considered morally good but if this involves a third person e.g. artificial insemination by donor or a surrogate mother, this is not considered ethically acceptable. We should not interfere with God.

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  • is a child a gift or a right? is it right to obtain sperm samples by masturbation? is it right to pay someone to carry a baby? what is the moral status of a foetus on its journey from zygote to new born baby?
  • also issue when third party is involved- replaces normal sexual activity as a method of reproduction.

Ethical Questions raised by IVF

  • when does human life begin and what is the status of the embryo? This involves considering whether human life starts at implantation in the uterus, and if, as it is most likely in the future, artificial wombs are developed, will the resulting human beings not be human?
  • IVF is supposed to be for treating infertility, but what about spare embryos which can be kept up to 14 days for experimentation.
  • the screening of embryos before implantation means that any imperfections can be weeded out- will this lead parents to choose to remove undesirable traits and to decide what is desirable?
  • designer babies-> in India already all IVF clinics allow sex selection and nearly all discarded embryos are female. In the future even the genetic make up of a child could be selected.
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IVF uses a considerable medical resources that could otherwise be used to treat those with more serious illnesses, and so one solution might be to limit the use of IVF to those whose reproductive ability has been damaged by medical treatments or by exposure to dangerous working conditions.

The Catholic church and natural law teach children should be born within a marriage and they are a "blessing" of marriage as a gift (Genesis 4) but not a right.

it removes control women have over their body; technology is a form of patriarchy exercising its power over her body, manipulating to reproduce. Feminist novelist Margarent Atwood in her novel "The Handmand's Tale" maintains that women and children have become no more than commodities and producers. She warns against unthinking use of technology which can unwittingly become another form of exploitation of women.

Surrogate Mothers

Moral problems include: legal status of surrogacy contracts, rights of parents, physical and mental risks, nature of motherhood.

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Advantages

  • can have a most wanted and loved child.
  • can prolong/delay fertility- have a child later in life after career/illness/death of husband etc.
  • sex selection available if wanted.
  • genetic screening for abnormalities.
  • you can select a child to have right genes for another child (like GE)

Social Implications

  • could be a shift in male/female ratio.
  • shift in age of parents relative to children.
  • conception becomes more of an artificial procedure.
  • greater freedom of choice.

Dehumanising aspects?

  • conception becomes less of a natural process. What of the act of love?
  • some tacit pressure might arise for women to use technologies available.
  • is the foetus being used as a means to an end?
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  • older women, past child bearing age will be able to have children. This is already the case and a 60 year old Italian woman has already had a child. women who want to follow a career could have their eggs frozen.
  • IVF meant that a quick, if not easy fix has been found to the problem of infertility and miscarriages, so there is less research into the causes of infertility with a view to prevention.
  • embryos are treated as properties.
  • IVF is not very successful. It is expensive and the hormone drugs used to increase fertility are potentially dangerous.

In 1948 the UN declaration of Human Rights stated that there is "a right to marry and found a family free from constraint" but this does not clearly state that there is a right to reproduce. Reproduction although could be argued as fundamental to our freedom to act- but society already places restrictions on this; for example, incestuous reproduction. It could be argued that the right to reproduce is simply a basic need or desire.

Who has the right to a child? everyone would argue they have the right to a child although in a case like Diane Blood, what if one partner dies? This is also the case with surrogate mothers as the biological mother is often forgotten.

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What is the meaning of being a mother? The necessity of a contract from the beginning of surrogacy suggests ambiguity about ownership, rights and responsibilities towards the child. Supposing foetus is thought to be deformed: Q is whether an abortion contrary to the wishes of surrogate is legally blinding. in Marxist terms women are determined according to their reproductive functions-> rich women hire poor women to meet their reproductive needs.

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Advantages

  • can have a most wanted and loved child.
  • can prolong/delay fertility- have a child later in life after career/illness/death of husband etc.
  • sex selection available if wanted.
  • genetic screening for abnormalities.
  • you can select a child to have right genes for another child (like GE)

Social Implications

  • could be a shift in male/female ratio.
  • shift in age of parents relative to children.
  • conception becomes more of an artificial procedure.
  • greater freedom of choice.

Dehumanising aspects?

  • conception becomes less of a natural process. What of the act of love?
  • some tacit pressure might arise for women to use technologies available.
  • is the foetus being used as a means to an end?
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Christian Ethics

  • church welcomed Louise Brown (first test tube baby) as a gift but expressed doubts about the process of IVF and the resulting science embryology.
  • sees life as sacred, with the parents as contractors of new life- the baby as a result of the love the couple have for each other. IVF takes the new baby away from that expression of love and becomes simply part of a process.
  • Church sees life os embryo as entrusted to doctors and technology as dominant in creating new life. Sees every human life from the first moment of conception and at every stage worthy of protection.
  • does not approve of IVF or destruction of human embryos nor of freezing embryos, nor of surrogacy.
  • Protestants see the question of IVF differently. Paul Ramsay has Christocentric approach and opposes AID as it "means a refusal of the image of God's creation in our own". Reproduction should only be within marriage as that is the only way to remain faithful to God, since the love between husband and wife should reflect the love of Christ for the Church.
  • Joseph Fletcher on the other hand was not negative towards IVF or even AID. Believed there were higher values in a couple's relationship than their biological
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  • relationship to their children. Fletcher did not see a third person as personally involved in the sexual relationship-what mattered was the outcome: pregnancy. Using IVF means that humans are using their technologies and creative skills for compassionate reasons.
  • offers agape-> it is sacrificial and generous.
  • Abraham finds Sarah barren and makes Hagar his concubine to have Ishmael.

Natural Law

  • would have many problems with IVF. Firstly, there is the problem of masturbation in order to obtain the necessary sperm-misuse of the genitalia and would not be following its natural function. IVF also results in the destruction of embryos and first primary precept demands the protection of innocent life.
  • an absolute theory and does not take into account any consideration of the outcomes of an action, whether these be the creation of new life or the health benefits from research on spare embryos.
  • Purpose of sex is to have a child- when couple have sex this must be the primary intention. If unable to procreate they must accept this.
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  • surrogate and gamete donors threaten institution of marriage and family. Surrogacy destroys narrative coherency of parenting from UNITIVE act of sex to birth rearing of child.
  • children must feel part of narrative coherency. Child must know parents if to make sense of their own identity.
  • S. is worse than gamete donor as it's psychologically more intrusive. Might cause psychological or spiritual confusion to natural order of marriage. The intended father might feel naturally that surrogate mother is real mother of his baby-> adultery?
  • all experimentation on early embryos is ILLICIT. Freezing of embryos is also condemned as it can cause damage or even death to the embryo and fails to give the embryo its natural place to develop in the 'maternal shelter'.

Utilitarianism

  • would consider the pleasure/pain principle and measure the pain of the unused embryos against the pleasure of the parents and the baby which was created.
  • would also consider the low success rate and effect this may have on the couple, their family and friends.
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  • does not protect the right of the embryo, nor does it see it as sacred in any way.
  • there is the problem of the cost to the health service and whether the money could be better spent saving more lives and so increasing the happiness of the majority.
  • in considering the population problems the world is facing and the resulting poverty, a utilitarian would ask whether it is ethical to spend money on assisting reproduction for a few so adding to the population of the world and the pain of many.
  • RISKS of S-> physical problems incurred in all pregnancies, s. mother having to give up the baby resulting in trauma. Commissioning parents could be blackmailed by surrogate e.g. more attention/money. Psychological harm to child/several types of parent; physical harm to baby if s. doesnt look after herself properly.
  • BENEFITS of S-> allows women to do as they choose; happiness at being able to gift the gift of life to an infertile couple; the joy of commissioning parents to have a child
  • for act utilitarians, the key issues are whether the happiness of having a child is greater than the possible pain or risks. If there are objections to the means these must be based on rational and observable facts that they do indeed cause physical or psychological harm.
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BENEFITS:

  • helps bring pleasure to couple to have a child together.
  • IVF allows for genetic screening for disorders and the possibility for 'engineering' where defects are found.
  • donors could be a family member and therefore feel less alien than an anonymous donor.
  • IVM is less expensive than IVF and less emotionally and physically painful

RISKS/HARM:

  • IVF is often very painful from the side effects of drugs to produce eggs for 'harvesting' which often requires surgical operation for extraction.
  • IVF is psychologically draining: the woman feels her body is not her own because it is subject to so many tests.
  • IVF is very expensive.
  • has a high chance of failure
  • High IVF success rates can be achieved by placing several fertilised eggs back into the womb, but this increases the chance of multiple births and can bring many financial and emotional problems associated with having many problems.
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  • IVF necessarily produces extra fertilised eggs which may have to be destroyed.
  • Using ED a child will have two genetic parents and two social parents. This could cause identity problems.

Kantian Ethics

  • would require that people are treated as ends in themselves. If the embryo is considered a person, a follower of Kantian Ethics would need to ask whether the destruction of so many embryos in order to create one life is justified.
  • danger of treating the creation of human life as just another consumer good.
  • selecting an embryo as a genetic match to cure another sibling could also be seen as using the embryo as a means to an end as would using a surrogate mother.
  • also consider the question of universalisation and whether IVF is to be offered to every infertile couple.
  • commercialisation of pregnancy can turn baby into a commodity.
  • against surrogacy because: treating a surrogate means to an end reduces their freedom and well-being; the autonomy and well being of commissioning parents is severly reduced. Driven by the overwhelming desire to have a child, not acting according to reason (desiring a baby depersonalises a baby to a desired "thing)
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  • surrogates reduce themselves to an object and far from acting in an autonomous rational way, she's motivated by money or "image" of being a giver.
  • she satisfies her own inclinations of selling services that should be the duty of a husband or spouse.
  • surrogate treats baby as a means to an in doing so has forfeited her autonomy by acting for a particular couple. Inconsistent with the idea of what it means to be a mother, cannot be universal duty if all women have to act in this way. BUT surrogacy doesn't reduce one's autonomy if each person fully understands their commitments. From a liberal perspective, S offers another option to childless couples and allows women with reproductive capabilities for a charitable end.
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