This Week in Bioethics

by Jennifer Lahl and Matthew Eppinette on August 5, 2016

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1. UNFPA Announces Opposition to Commercial Surrogacy

The Phnom Penh Post reports that the United Nations Population Fund opposes the legalization of commercial surrogacy. This is an important development as Cambodia considers how surrogacy should be treated in the country in the wake of high-profile surrogacy scandals in Thailand, India, and Nepal. “Reproductive health, surrogacy, and reproductive technologies should not be seen as a commodity that we can trade,” said Dr. Marc Derveeuw, UNFPA Cambodia representative. YES! That is exactly right.

2. US Government Working with Fertility Industry to Legalize International Surrogacy

At a February State Department public meeting on surrogacy, only one person, our friend Kathy Sloan, directly spoke out, in her words, “against surrogacy as pure class exploitation, endangerment of women’s health, a violation of women’s and children’s human rights, and the commodification of women and children.” In contrast, those running the meeting were on a first name basis with those from the fertility industry who were in attendance.

On September 13, the State Department is conducting another public meeting on questions of international parentage and surrogacy. Opponents of surrogacy can and MUST participate and make their voices heard! Importantly, you can participate by phone — there is no need to travel to Washington, DC!

Our friends at Stop Surrogacy Now have the complete details.

3. National Institutes of Health to Fund Research on Human-Animal Stem Cells

Last year the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a moratorium on funding for experiments that involve using human stem cells and tissues in animal embryos. This week they announced that the moratorium will soon be lifted. As the New York Times reports,

Researchers have long been putting human cells into animals — like pieces of human tumors in mice to test drugs that might destroy the tumors — but stem cell research is fundamentally different. The stem cells are put into developing embryos where they can become any cells, like those in organs, blood and bone.

It is worth noting that it appears funding will be available for experiments that involve human stem cells, human germline cells, and human brain tissue.

A 30 day public comment period is now open. Rest assured, we will be commenting.

4. Australian Surrogacy Story Tugs at Heartstrings, but Read Carefully

As things heat up in Australia around their laws restricting surrogacy, we will probably be hearing more stories like this tugging at our heartstrings. Sally Obermeder is a local TV  presenter who was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. She and her spouse have one daughter who was born before her diagnosis, but they want to grow their family using their surplus embryos.

Current law in Australia permits only altruistic surrogacy. However, Sally is taking to the airwaves complaining that she had to come all the way to the U.S. to find a “Wisconsin native” surrogate mother. Sally claims she is only paying for her medical expenses. But that’s altruistic surrogacy, which, again, is permitted in Australia. Of course that’s not the point they want you to take away from the story. Rather, the underlying message is that Australian surrogacy laws should be relaxed. Reader beware!

5. Big Week for The Center for Bioethics and Culture

Finally, we want to point out a few things about us this week. Our documentary short film Maggie’s Story is now available to watch online via Amazon Video. It took more than a year of behind the scenes work to make this film available on Amazon. For those who are Amazon Prime members, Maggie’s Story is FREE! Others may rent the film for $2.99 or purchase it for $9.99. Click here to watch.

Jennifer has been invited and accepted into The Aspen Ethical Leadership Conference. This prestigious program accepts only 100 people, so it is a true honor to be one of a handful of people hearing from a list of leaders involved with healthcare and ethics. This is a non-budgeted expense, so we are turning to our friends. Please consider chipping in and helping cover the costs to attend. We are grateful for any love, likes, and shares to help us #crowdfund this through GoFundMe.

And last but not least, this summer marks the CBC’s 16th birthday. You can read a bit more about that on our website. We are deeply grateful to have you alongside us as we work every day to addresses bioethical issues that profoundly affect our common humanity, especially issues that arise in the lives of the most vulnerable among us.

This Week in Bioethics Archive

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

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