Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Frozen embryos and such things


Natallie Evans and her that time partner Howard Johnston decided to conceive a child by means of IVF. As the BBC reports, 'Ms Evans was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2001, but six of the couple's fertilised embryos were frozen and stored prior to her treatment.'Well, as so often in the real world, there's no happy ending to this story. Ms Evans and Mr Johnston split up and each went their own way. Mr Johnston, however, wanted the frozen embryos destroyed, while Ms Evans wanted them implanted in order to conceive a child. She is infertile due to the effects of her cancer episode and pointed out that this was her last chance to conceive a child. She took the case through the legal instances in the UK as well as in the EU and saw her appeals rejected by every single court. Her arguments were that she wanted her own children and that the embryos had a right to life. The former argument is a classic case of question begging, because even if we agreed that she had such a right, it's unclear why it is Mr Johnston's responsibility to supply the genetic material for this purpose. And the embryos supposed 'right to life', well, while I don't agree with the very idea that embryos have any rights at all, let's suppose they do (ie for the sake of the argument). Surely Mr Johnston could always maintain that the embryos should then not be destroyed but kept in the freezer in perpetuity. That way they wouldn't have their supposed 'right to life' denied, yet Ms Evans would also not be able to conceive of the children she desires so badly. In case you wonder why one could possibly think that embryos (see photo to the left) don't have a right to life ... well, I wonder why any one could think that something has a right to life that has no central nervous system, no brain, no capacity to suffer, no sense of his/her past/future, and indeed no wish to be alive.

On a more serious note, however, I wonder what drives Ms Evans' somewhat fanatical approach to this all. Why does she insist on carrying a baby to term that she began producing with her ex-partner (who wants to have nothing to do with her any longer). I mean, if she so badly wants a baby, why not adopt one? Similarly, Mr Johnston... I'm tempted to say 'get a life mate' or 'get real', and 'why don't you let her have her way'. All that he contributed was a tiny bit of genetic material. What would be the big deal about letting her have her way provided a deal is signed that establishes that he won't incur any costs and responsibilities (and rights) in terms of the kid(s) up-bringing. End of story. It all seems rather petty.

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