This Week in Bioethics

by Matthew Eppinette, CBC Executive Director on July 22, 2016

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1. Maltese Political Party Rejects Euthanasia

The Alternattiva Demokratika party of Malta has rejected euthanasia and assisted suicide, and instead is seeking to emphasize the importance of living wills and palliative care in public policy. We also encourage the use of living wills. Even better is a durable power of attorney for healthcare that is accompanied by an open and honest discussion of one’s end of life wishes with loved ones. We applaud the the Alternattiva Demokratika party on their stance, and we encourage political parties in other nations to do the same.

2. Freezing Eggs, Freezing Ovaries — Promising too Much?

We’ve written often about egg freezing (see here, here, here, etc.), and ways in which it offers false promises about beating biology and buying time. NPR this week highlights what appears to be the first case of women who do not have cancer freezing their ovaries in an attempt “to put their biological clocks on hold.” Of course ovaries are only one part of the larger reproductive system, and the “biological clock” is a complicated “machine” indeed. I for one am skeptical that the promises of ovary freezing will be any truer than those held forth by egg freezing.

3. A Scathing Indictment of the Frozen Sperm Industry

An article this week in the New York Times reports on “a new wave of lawsuits against sperm banks, highlighting claims of deception and negligence, and adding an array of challenges beyond the longstanding issue of undetected genetic problems.” Sperm banks are “a major industry” that is “lightly regulated.” The article is a scathing indictment of the frozen sperm industrial complex. We have repeatedly tried to warn that these are the kinds of issues opened up when making life is taken into the laboratory. Beyond that are numerous other issues that arise with sperm donation (and third-party reproduction in general), which is exactly why we made Anonymous Father’s Day. If you haven’t seen it, we encourage you to watch it (or watch it again) to better understand donor conception.

4. Faking Life: An Overview

We often categorize the issues on which we work under the headings taking life, making life, and faking life. The Australian publication Mercatornet carries a thorough overview of one, if not the, key area of faking life: transhumanism. Not only does the article cover the basics of what transhumanism is, who is involved, and what it might mean for our shared humanity, it also highlights ways in which our societal attitudes toward technology — that it is inherently good, that it holds the solutions to our problems — are a form of “unconscious transhumanism.” We at the CBC are particularly interested in how these attitudes affect the practice of medicine, and ways in which medicine is being pushed toward transhumanist goals. Watch for more from us on transhumanism and faking life soon.

5. My Minnesota Surrogacy Testimony

On Tuesday I testified by phone to the the Minnesota Legislative Committee on Surrogacy. The state is considering carefully what their stance toward surrogacy should be — disallow, regulate, or other — and this committee is holding a series of meetings this summer. Tuesday’s meeting addressed the health and psychological risks of surrogacy to women and children, and my testimony reflects this. Of course there is much more that could be said about the practice of surrogacy. I’m glad the Committee is open to hearing a wide range of perspectives in order to fully explore the topic.

This Week in Bioethics Archive

Image by twentysevenphotos via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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