This Week in Bioethics

by Matthew Eppinette, CBC Executive Director on June 10, 2016

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1. The Pursuit of Whose Happiness?

The Guardian recently ran a personal essay on one woman’s emotional turmoil regarding  what to do with her frozen embryos. The article reveals a deep disconnect in the woman’s thinking, which is probably all too symptomatic of societal attitudes in general. On the one hand, she wants to deny their humanity, calling them “our four potential children.” A few paragraphs later, though, she acknowledges that their sex, hair color, hair texture, physical features, and more are already fully encoded in their DNA. Very human indeed. As it turns out, the author bio at the end of the piece reveals that she also wrote a book entitled The Pursuit of Happiness: And Why It’s Making Us Anxious. This personal essay is certainly is all about her pursuing her happiness. Yet again reproductive technologies reveal adult desires triumphing over the needs of children.

2. Is it Safe? Is it Ethical?  

Scientists in the United Kingdom have declared the three-parent embryo technique known as “early pronuclear transfer” safe. Their study determined that “the new procedure did not adversely affect embryo development.” Certainly embryo development is not insignificant, but it is just as certain that embryo development is not the whole story. What will happen later in pregnancy? What will happen over the course of a lifetime? What about their children? We simply have no way of knowing, no way of determining the safety of that. In addition, the study used “more than 500 eggs from 64 donor women.” As regular CBC readers know, egg retrieval is rife with ethical issues, not least of which is the lack of long-term study of the safety of egg retrieval for the women donating their eggs. Further still is the destruction of all of the embryos in this study. Instead of clearing things up, this study only compounds the ethical difficulties.

3. Legal but Still Wrong

Yesterday, June 9, California’s euphemistically titled “End of Life Option Act” went fully into effect, legalizing physician assisted suicide in the state. The Catholic Bishops of California statement is well put:

What some mistakenly consider a newfound “freedom,” will inevitably become a duty for others. By allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to their patients, California is embarking on a dangerous course. This new law will place the disabled, the elderly, and other vulnerable people at risk for abuse and mistreatment and will undermine the healing professions’ venerable commitment to “first do no harm.”

Simply because something is legal, of course, does not make it right. Nor does it mean that people have to make use of the law. We will continue our educational efforts to encourage everyone in California to reject this new so-called right to assisted suicide.

4. Setback in Melissa Cook’s Landmark Surrogacy Case

In January, Melissa Cook, a surrogate mother in California who was pressured to abort one of the three children she was carrying for a man in Georgia, filed suit in federal court arguing that California’s surrogacy law is unconstitutional and seeking custody of the children. This week her legal case suffered a setback when a federal judge dismissed it. Her attorney plans to appeal that decision and continue to battle for custody in Georgia. We continue to argue that all surrogacy should be stopped now. It is dangerous and harmful to both women and children, and in this case the strife all of this has caused means that the story of these three children, and the father who wanted one of them aborted, will live on forever on the internet. #StopSurrogacyNow

5. Jennifer’s Review of Me Before You

As we mentioned last week, a new film has been released that has assisted suicide/euthanasia at its ending. Jennifer saw the movie and wrote a review that was published by our friends at The Public Discourse.

A new film in which the main character commits suicide sends the message that “me and my needs come before you and your needs.” It is a tale of autonomy run amok—a result of the radical and ludicrous idea that we do not live connected to, dependent on, or in relationship with others.

The full review is available at


This Week in Bioethics Archive

Image by Ltljltlj [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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