This Week in Bioethics

by Christopher White, CBC Director of Research and Education on April 24, 2015

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1. Chinese Scientists Genetically Modify Human Embryos

A new study in the journal Protein & Cell confirms that Chinese scientists have engaged in editing the genomes of human embryos—the first time in the history of science. This daring new effort is not only ethically unsound, but dangerous as well. Changes in germline modification are heritable and could have unknown effects on future generations. As Harvard stem cell biologist George Daley warned, “Their study should be a stern warning to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes.”

2. Celebrity Legal Battle over Frozen Embryos

A former Hollywood couple, Nick Loeb and Sofia Vergara, are engaged in a legal dispute over their frozen embryos. According to reports, the couple underwent two rounds of IVF and had their embryos frozen before they could hire a surrogate to carry the child for them. Loeb apparently wants to keep the embryos in hopes of eventually having them implanted and carried to term, while Vergara is seeking to have them destroyed. This whole ordeal continues to provide us with more evidence on just how messy the entire enterprise of assisted reproduction has become as we continue to deconstruct the body and outsource childbearing.

3. Alabama Lawmakers Consider Physician Assisted Suicide Ban

Lawmakers in Alabama are considering a full ban on physician assisted suicide. Under the proposed legislation, any doctor seeking to engage in the practice would be charged with a felony. On the heels of so many states taking up the issue in hopes of legalizing it, we applaud the efforts of states like Alabama who taking the occasion to ensure that such a practice does not happen in their state. In its current draft form, the legislation states: “The state has an interest in protecting vulnerable groups, including the impoverished, the elderly, and disabled persons from abuse, neglect and mistakes.” Hear, hear!

4. “Diblings” – New Assisted Reproductive Technology Lingo

In the ever-changing world of families by design, it’s sometimes hard to keep up with latest terms and trends. This week we learned that there’s a new term being used for half brothers and sisters from same sperm donor: diblings. In a recent profile, one donor mom commented: “I think of us as sister wives—without the husband— because we have this large family of children who are half-siblings, and they share traits, habits and characteristics.” While this may sound fun and fashionable at the moment, many, if not most, of these children will grow up eager to know their biological father and questioning the commercialization of the process that brought them into existence.

5. CBC in the News: Jennifer Lahl on “When Seniors Get Pregnant”

Writing in National Review Online, Jennifer examines the case of a 65-year old woman in Berlin who is now pregnant with quadruplets as a result of egg and sperm donation. As our work continues to show, once the floodgates of reproductive technology are opened, there are no limitations on its usage. As Jennifer concludes, “This is not medicine. It is human trafficking under the guise of family building.”

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