Reproductive Technology Essay, Research Paper
The natural method of reproduction has become only one of many new techniques used today. There are millions of couples that do not have the ability to reproduce on their own because of infertility and therefore, must resort to these new techniques. The main causes of infertility are that of hormonal malfunctions and anatomical abnormalities. There are many ethical debates on whether artificial means of reproduction should be used, and this will be discussed throughout the paper.
There are a number of reproduction-aiding technologies, which are widely used all over the world, and one being artificial insemination. This is a relatively simple and old method, where semen is mechanically introduced into the vagina near the cervix. There are two types of artificial insemination: AIH (sperm actually belongs to the husband), and AID (sperm belongs to a sperm donor). AID has a 60% success rate, which is very good. Another reproduction-aiding technology is, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), whereby so-called test-tube babies are conceived. The egg and sperm are collected from the male and female of a couple, and are then mixed outside the body, usually in a glass dish. If all goes well, fertilization will occur within 24 hours after the sperm and egg are mixed. Two days after fertilization, the fertilized egg develops into an embryo, and is then inserted into the women s uterus. This is a very complex procedure, because care must be taken to make sure the egg and sperm survive in the outside environment. The success rates for IVF range from 15-20%, and the cost for each attempt is $10,000. Another technique, which is also widely used, is surrogate motherhood. This technique is used when the female of the married couple is either unable to produce eggs or unable to carry a pregnancy. The surrogate mother has the sperm of the male in the married couple artificially inseminated, or the married couple will go through IVF, and the fertilized egg will be injected into her. Some surrogate mothers will volunteer for this process, and others can receive payments of about $10,000.
Inevitably, these technologies will raise many moral and ethical dilemmas. With regards to AI, there is a an argument that rejects it because it uses a bad means (masturbation) to serve a good end. Because of this argument, there have been other means by which to collect sperm from the male donor other than with masturbation; Puncturing the testicle to remove sperm, intercourse with condoms, coitus interruptus (the penis is pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation, so that the semen does not reach the vagina) and postcoital removal of sperm from the vagina. The first alternative method to masturbation, puncturing of the testicle, provides no pleasure to the man. Natural-law theorists, who argue that it is not the pleasure of masturbation that is wrong, but they reject this alternative because the way in which the sperm is removed is unnatural. Natural-law theorists also reject using condoms and coitus interruptus, because the determining factor of sex (ejaculating into the vagina) is missing. The only alternative that even natural-law theorists accept, is postcoital removal of sperm from the vagina, since the full act of coitus precedes the removal of the sperm from the woman s vagina.
Another argument against AID is that it is some form of adultery. The natural-law definition of adultery is the uniting of sperm and ovum of two people one of whom is married but not to the other. Whether this definition is right or not, AID definitely involves a third-party intrusion into the marital relationship. The reason married couples choose AID instead of adoption, is because they would rather have a child that genetically resembles at least one of them rather than neither.
A big ethical problem with AID is that the parents usually keep the truth from their AID child, misinforming them of who they really are. When parents lie to their AID child, they are taking way the child s right to know where he or she originated. They are depriving their child of the oppurtunity to choose who he or she wishes to regard as the real father. AID can have long-term consequences for the children. Most of the time, the AID child finds out about the truth, and is traumatized by this discovery. One AID child stated, No one considers how the child feels when she finds that her natural father was a $25 cup of sperm. The fantasies revolve around what the donor was thinking while he was filling the cup. There is no passion, no human contact in such a union; just cold calculation and manipulation of another person s life. There are also many things that can affect the sperm donor in a negative way. He may feel guilty about giving life to a child he has no possibility of contacting.
One of the ethical issues with IVF is the embryo s moral status and whether it should be considered a human life even before it is implanted into the uterus. According to the full-protectionist position, embryos have the same moral rights as adults even before implantation into the uterus. They argue that an embryo has the potential in becoming a human person. The nonprotectionist position is that embryos that are not implanted yet, have no rights. This view believes that only self-aware human beings are human persons with rights to life. Even though they believe that embryos have no rights before implantation, they believe that once the embryo develops awareness for feeling pain, it is then considered like a human person, and will have equal rights as an adult human being.
Depending on which position is taken, there is a problem with a surplus of embryos that aren t used during IVF. Three or four embryos are implanted into the uterus, and only one will implant itself into the wall of the uterus and will continue to develop normally. The rest of the embryos are flushed out of the women s system. Most ethicists will not disagree with this since it occurs in natural miscarriages as well. Some hospitals use drugs to make the patients produce as many eggs as possible at one time. After the external fertilization of these eggs, all of the fertilized eggs are placed into the uterus to increase the chances of the patient becoming pregnant. Although doctors have realized that this could result in the patients having multiple children, it still increases the chance of the patients becoming pregnant since this wasn t occurring at high percentages. If a woman s hormones are in balance and her menstrual cycle is normal, a small number of fertilized eggs are as likely to develop normally as with a large number of fertilized eggs. Therefore, this technique of using an excess of fertilized eggs is only used if there are hormonal imbalances or irregular menstrual cycles. Another way to conserve embryos is to only implant the minimum amount of fertilized eggs needed for development, and the rest of the fertilized eggs are frozen for future attempts in case of miscarriages. However, these embryos may never be used again, and cannot stay frozen forever. This leads to the same problem as flushing out embryos that are not needed. If one couple wishes to adopt another couple s unwanted IVF embryo, then they should be permitted to do so, because similarly, we would kill an embryo to save its mother s life, then why let a frozen embryo die when there is someone who is ready, willing and able to bear and rear it.
Another use for the un-used IVF embryos is in scientific research. Some ethicists say that whatever experiments can be performed on premature infants, can be performed on embryos. Full protectionists oppose to experiments on spare embryos. They believe it is almost always wrong to experiment on children, infants, or embryos because these persons cannot consent to being used as research subjects. They have only two exceptions to this no-experimentation rule. If parents believe that experimentation may serve the best interests of their embryos, or if they believe that their embryos would, if they could express themselves, choose to be experimented on for the sake of others, then they may give consent to it. Non-protectionists have no objections either to experimenting on existing surplus embryos or to creating embryos deliberately for experimental uses. The way they see it, is that only self-aware human beings can have interests and because embryos are not self-aware, they are without interests. Therefore, they believe that researchers can experiment on embryos as long as the embryo is incapable of feeling pain. Some non-protectionists even say that it is less morally problematic to do research on an early embryo that feels no pain than on a full-grown animal that does feel pain.
There are two types of surrogate mothers: those who develop an embryo genetically related to them (partial surrogacy) and those who develop an embryo genetically unrelated to them (full surrogacy). Many natural-law theorists believe that surrogate motherhood is unnatural because they involve AI and IVF, which transform reproduction into just production. Ronal D. Lawler, a philosopher said: When a new human life comes to be out of an act of love between two persons who will forever be parents, and responsible to the child-a child not made but begotten, not a product that its makers manipulate, but an offspring that is their equal-the entire context suggests an attitude and a moral stance different from that which arises when human life is originated in the context of production, manufacturing, and quality control. Natural-law ethicists argue that surrogate motherhood contradicts human dignity, a dignity that supposedly requires people to perceive themselves as the kind of beings who would never put their bodies on the market. A women s right to control her own body and to make decisions about its proper use does not entitle her to exploit her body in such a manner.
As natural-law ethicists see it, a surrogate mother threatens a couple s relationship. Compared to an anonymous sperm donor or an anonymous egg donor, the contracted mother is an unavoidable presence in the couple s life for at least nine months. As a result of this, the real mother might become jealous of the surrogate mother. These ethicists also believe that surrogate motherhood is not really motherhood but a disguised form of baby selling in which a woman deliberately becomes pregnant with the intention of giving up the child to whom she will give birth. The surrogate mother continually has to remind herself that she is nothing but an incubator that has been hired to experience not only physiological but also psychological changes for someone else s needs. Since the contracting parents contract for a healthy child, a defective child will become an unwanted child. Like bruised fruit, in the produce bin of a supermarket, this child is likely to become an object of avoidance.
The arguments for surrogate motherhood are that when the contracted mother sells her womb, she does not loose control over her person any more that does the athlete who sells his body for a hockey team or the teacher who sells her mind to a university. Since these surrogate mothers offer their service in exchange for money, they are no more different than millions of other workers who sell their service for money. Even though there are strong emotions that are being sold by the surrogate mother, such as maternal love, flight attendants, development officers and sympathetic psychiatrists are also selling their emotions. Another argument for surrogate motherhood is that is allows couples that cannot, by natural means, have a child. This is the utilitarian view, and it shows how the benefits supersede the flaws. Like sperm vendors, the surrogate mothers get an oppurtunity to sell their reproductive wares for a good price. The utilitarians believe the child that is born from this process is most benefited. Since everyone went through such trouble to bring him or her into the world, the child is excruciatingly wanted, and a wanted child are supposedly loved and therefore happy, children.
The different types of reproductive technologies discussed are all widely used by couples that cannot reproduce on their own. AID and surrogate motherhood involve the intrusion of a third party into the couple s relationship, and pose conflict on who the actual parents are. IVF and AIH are more ethically acceptable, since there is no complication of a third party. The issue here is how we treat human beings at the molecular level, and whether there is even a difference between fully developed adults, and human embryos. These technologies are very useful for the unfortunate couples that do not have the proper tools to create children, and therefore everyone should have the right to have children by any means.
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