Tag: adoption

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An IVF Keepsake?

As a father of two teenagers (and one who will join that esteemed company in a month), I am fluent in “sarcasm,” the native tongue of this group. Mine only use English sparingly, to do business. So, I often read headlines of stories in newspapers (remember those?) and online as sarcastic, and the articles they lead as spoofs. This one, in the “Parenting” section of an Australian web journal called “Kidspot,” immediately led me there. It speaks of a company that will take embryos from in vitro fertilization (IVF) that have not been implanted, and for which the biological parents have no plans of implanting, and turn them into keepsake jewelry. But this is no spoof.

The couple interviewed in the piece, having completed a 6-year journey through infertility and IVF, has a 4-year old son and twin toddlers. With seven remaining embryos, they had a decision to make. For them, “Donation wasn’t an option, the annual storage fee was an added financial strain, and disposing of them unimaginable.” Enter a company called “Baby Bee Hummingbirds,” who placed the embryos in a heart-shaped pendant.

My first impulse, not without some merit, was to find this all a rather ghastly business. Each of these embryos is a unique genetic human created in the image of God. I find myself critical of parents who don’t seem to have fully thought out the ramifications of fertilizing ten or more eggs. If these are genuinely human beings, then the creation (if that’s the right word) of “leftovers” is itself deeply problematic.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Ethical questions about mitochondrial replacement in humans. Three parents babies

We thus consider it necessary to establish a moratorium on their use in humans, at least until more is known about these aspects. If this knowledge is obtained, ethical questions would still remain to be resolved, among which we consider the most relevant to be those related to the dignity and identity of the human embryo.

Children with two mothers and a father

In January 2017, the prestigious scientific journal Bioethics published a special edition dedicated to the ethical aspects of nuclear transfer techniques aimed at preventing the transmission of mitochondrial diseases, a topic that we have extensively addressed in our Observatory (see HERE).

Its editorial, Ethics of mitochondrial replacement, starts by referring to the recent birth of the first baby resulting from these techniques (see HERE). It then provides a brief description of the main characteristics of mitochondrial diseases, which are inherited exclusively from the mother. It explains that mothers who carry mutations in their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) face the uncertainty of not knowing if their genetic children will or will not inherit a serious mitochondrial disease. However the emergence of mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRT) offers these mothers hope, as healthy mitochondria from a donor are used to replace those of the mother. These techniques are maternal spindle transfer (MST) and pronuclear transfer (PNT), which consist, respectively, in removing the nucleus from a healthy egg or zygote, which will keep its mitochondria. The nucleus of the mother’s oocyte (patient or carrier of the mutation) or of another zygote obtained by fertilising the mothers egg is then transferred into the enucleated oocyte or zygote.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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An Assessment of Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy

By: Alexa Woodward

Last year, a baby boy was born from an embryo that underwent mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT). MRT was used to prevent this child from inheriting a mitochondrial disease from his mother, specifically infantile subacute necrotizing encephalomyelopathy – a disease that affects the central nervous system and usually results in death within the first few years of life. While controversial, assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) such as MRT provide prospective parents with additional options and have the potential to improve the quality of human life by preventing disease.

This story is of bioethical interest because this technique results in germline modification, which is the alteration of DNA in the reproductive cells of humans that will be passed on to their offspring. Implementing MRT in humans has consequentially garnered much criticism, from simple health-related implications (such as unknown harms to potential offspring and eugenics concerns) to the futuristic next logical step of scientific intervention; directly editing the nuclear genome.

With MRT, modifications affect the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA), not the nuclear genome. Researchers emphasize the lack of bearing that mtDNA has on personal characteristics and the overall maintenance of “genetic integrity,” especially when compared to using the whole donor egg with an “unrelated” nuclear genome.1 Even so, additional concerns arise regarding the long-term anthropological effects, blurring the distinction between therapy and enhancement, and issues of resource allocation.

Mutations and deletions  in the mitochondrial genome can result in mitochondrial diseases affecting the neurological, musculoskeletal, cardiac, gastrointestinal, renal, and other systems, all of which are incurable.  MRT uses the intended parents’ nuclear DNA in conjunction with a donor’s mitochondria.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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In the Journals–March 2017, Part II by Julia Kowalski

This is Part II of March’s article round-up. You can find part I here.

In addition to the articles below, Theory, Culture and Society features an interview with Michel Foucault from 1983.

New Genetics and Society

Everything and nothing: regulating embryo research in Canada

Alana Cattapan & Dave Snow

This article examines how medical and scientific professionals experience and engage with the governance of embryo research in Canada. Drawing on the history of embryo regulation in Canada and the findings of a survey conducted with lab directors in Canadian fertility clinics, we identify a disjuncture between the rules established by legislation, regulations, and research ethics guidelines and the real-life experiences of professionals in the field. This disjuncture, we argue, is the result of both the absence of implementation mechanisms that would give substance to the governing framework, as well as an inability on the part of medical and scientific professionals to engage in robust self-regulation. Overall, we demonstrate that in an ethically charged and highly technical area of policy-making like embryonic research, clarity about the roles and responsibilities of government and professionals in policy-making and implementation is critical to effective governance.

Not just about “the science”: science education and attitudes to genetically modified foods among women in Australia

Heather J. Bray & Rachel A. Ankeny

Previous studies investigating attitudes to genetically modified (GM) foods suggest a correlation between negative attitudes and low levels of science education, both of which are associated with women. In a qualitative focus group study of Australian women with diverse levels of education, we found attitudes to GM foods were part of a complex process of making “good” food decisions, which included other factors such as locally produced, fresh/natural, healthy and nutritious, and convenient.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Public opinion on legalizing surrogacy in China?

Yegang Su comments on the Chinese government’s apparent interest in public opinion on legalizing surrogacy in China.

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Recently, a news report on surrogacy in China was tweeted by the WeChat public account of Liaowang Institute. The Institute is a high-level, Chinese think tank established by the Central Government’s official news agency, Xinhua. I read the original news report published in China Newsweek, and was surprised to learn about the scale and sophistication of the surrogacy industry in China. (A partial English translation of this news story is available through South China Morning Post.)

The China Newsweek article provides a description of a complex business ecosystem that includes: entrepreneurs, doctors, seekers and bearers of surrogacy services, salespersons and care workers. The news report also uses ‘contract’ language. For example, those providing surrogacy services are hired as “reproductive labourers,” they are paid a monthly wage and their pay fluctuates with the stages of pregnancy. The work involved is explained to the recruited women surrogates as “renting their wombs.” These women are described as between 24 and 32 years of age and married, and they must have previously given birth. Most of the women are reported as being from rural areas and motivated for financial reasons.

Internet Backbone (representation of principal internet data routes)

I forwarded the China Newsweek article to some bioethicists and scientists working on ethical, legal, and social issues related to assisted reproductive technologies in China. The one person who replied, also expressed surprise at how little was known about the practice of surrogacy in China.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Kidnapped at Birth January 23, 2017 The question of ‘who are the real parents?’ can arise in…

January 23, 2017

Kidnapped at Birth

by Professor Bonnie Steinbock

On January 13, 2017, Alexis Manigo learned that Gloria Williams, the woman who raised her, has been charged with kidnapping her when she was eight hours old. Alexis also learned that her birth name was Kamiyah Mobley.

In 1998, a woman posing as a nurse at University Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida told the young mother, sixteen-year-old Shanara Mobley, that her baby had a fever and needed some tests. She then walked out of the hospital and disappeared.

Cases like this one are extremely rare. “The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has tracked 308 infant abductions since 1983 by nonfamily members in the U.S.” (“Woman Stolen at Birth Learns True Identity; ‘Momma’ Charged.” http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/01/13/us/ap-us-stolen-infant-found.html.) Nevertheless, such cases raise a question common in both law and reproductive ethics: who are the real parents?

This question can arise in a range of contexts. A surrogate mother changes her mind, and seeks custody of the child after birth. A lesbian couple split up, after raising a child together, and go to court over custody and visitation rights. A man, unaware that his former girlfriend was pregnant with his child, seeks custody after learning that the child has been adopted (the so-called “thwarted father” cases). A couple undergoing IVF discovers that one of their embryos has been mistakenly implanted in another woman, and seek custody over the resulting child.

The law has traditionally regarded genetic ties as the determining factor.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Using Inclusive Language Isn’t Enough

Celeste Orr and Erin Leigh Courtice respond to criticisms of the British Medical Associations’ guide on inclusive language which aims to ensure that trans, intersex, genderqueer, and non-binary people are not subjected to discriminatory language.

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Since January 2017, Hayden Cross has garnered a lot of media attention. He is the first publicly-known pregnant trans man in Britain. In response to the media attention, there has been considerable criticism of the 2016 British Medical Association’s “A guide to effective communication.” The guide recognizes that some trans men and intersex men may become pregnant and it calls for the use of more inclusive language. The guide recommends that medical professionals use the phrase “pregnant people” instead of “expectant mothers.”

While the guide was published in 2016, before Cross’ pregnancy, a connection between Cross and the guide persists. Many of the articles and people criticizing the guide assume or suggest that it was published since Cross’ pregnancy. In this way, Cross is being blamed for the apparently “Orwellian” instructions, which undoubtedly intensifies the cissexist violence being aimed at him.

According to Philip Davies, British Conservative MP, the guide is “completely ridiculous.” Laura Perrins, of The Conservative Woman, describes the recommendations as “anti-science, anti-women and anti-mother.” Similarly, Sarah Vine claims the guide is “an insult to mothers.”

These recent criticisms are deeply problematic. For example, Perrins’ claim that the guide is anti-science is not only ironic, but false. Her claim reproduces the scientifically unsubstantiated essentialist theory that bodies are innately sexed and gendered, as observable by various bodily characteristics and capabilities.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Victims of Sex Crime Race Strict Indian Abortion Deadline

February 27, 2017

(Reuters) – The woman, who was trafficked from West Bengal to Pune – a journey stretching across the breadth of India – delivered a son this month who she then gave up for adoption. Counselors who work with trafficking and rape victims say that an unwanted pregnancy followed by adoption was a traumatic double punch for women who have already endured a sex crime. “A 16-year-old told me she was offered no help when she wanted to terminate the pregnancy, but now she was being asked to give up the child for adoption,” said Leena Jadhav, a counselor.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Rights to so close and yet, so far away

by Jenji Cassandra Learn

This is the second in a series of personal articles about living as a trans-woman facing insurance denial, discrimination, and medical mistreatment in the current political environment.

This New Year’s Day—Sunday the 1st, 2017—was supposed to be the first day that I and people like me had equal access to healthcare in America. It was supposed to the first time we were regarded as equal to our fellow citizens and not required to pay out-of-pocket for basic healthcare needs, or even surgery, without any help from insurance providers that the rest of America depends on and that we are never the less obliged to give our money to even while they regard us as non-entities and less-than. After decades of struggle and misery, all of that was finally about to change. It didn’t.

There is a tragic irony in the fact that, after a century of stigmatization and repression, trans*, intersex, and genderqueer people have finally come to be understood, respected, and treated humanely within much of the medical and scientific community… only to at the same time find ourselves in the most hostile, oppressive, and socially regressive political environment the United States has seen since beginning of the Cold War.

The assault on the civil-rights protections and the legal and political gains made by trans, intersex, and genderqueer Americans in recent years began at the state level even before Donald Trump was inaugurated, and his top rival in the Republican primary was openly demagoguing trans* and intersex women as a danger to children, advocating the segregationist HB 2 law in North Carolina, and having his guards lay hands on a trans teen and his mother at one of his campaign events while an angry mob cheered, for no reason other than his identity.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

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Study Suggests That iPSCs Do Not Develop More Mutations than Subcloned Cells

February 9, 2017

(News-Medical) – Despite its immense promise, adoption of iPSCs in biomedical research and medicine has been slowed by concerns that these cells are prone to increased numbers of genetic mutations. A new study by scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health, suggests that iPSCs do not develop more mutations than cells that are duplicated by subcloning. Subcloning is a technique where single cells are cultured individually and then grown into a cell line. The technique is similar to the iPSC except the subcloned cells are not treated with the reprogramming factors which were thought to cause mutations.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.