Tag: ovum

Bioethics Blogs

What happens to the leftovers? Is compassionate transfer ethical?

by Katarina Lee

The Washington Post recently published an article discussing IVF and one woman’s journey in the creation of her child.[1] Unlike other articles that often focus on the process of IVF, Sarika Chawla highlighted an often forgotten and diminished aspect of IVF, the obligations to “left-over” embryos. Chawla discussed five options for these embryos: (1) destroy them; (2) donate them to medical research; (3) donate them to an infertile woman; (4) keep them frozen; and (5) engage in compassionate transfer. While Chawla did not address a sixth option in her article, it should be noted that there are also fertile women who will gestate “left-over” embryos out of a sense of moral and often religious obligation.

IVF not only poses financial and physical tolls on intended parent(s), but it places an enormous emotional burden on the parties involved. In the excitement and desire to have children, many individuals often over-look questions regarding “left-over” embryos. In any given round of IVF, several ovum are fertilized resulting in several embryos. While standards are consistently in flux, typically two embryos are transferred at a time. This leaves several frozen embryos as “back-up” if the previous transfers are unsuccessful. Many intended parent(s) choose not to address what will happen to the remaining embryos until after family completion, but by then they are left with embryos they often consider to be future children and siblings to their live-birth children. While the accurate number of frozen embryos is unknown due to lack of reporting requirements, in 2011, it was estimated that there were more than 600,000 in the US.

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.

Bioethics News

The Public Should Have a Say in Allowing Modification of Our Germline Genetic Code

February 17, 2017

(Scientific American) – The report suggests limitations on genetic engineering to the heritable “germline” code of embryos, or even earlier upstream in the process, sperm and ovum, which convey information passed on to subsequent generations. However, the report appears to exclude the public from participation and concludes that “clinical trials using heritable germline genome editing should be permitted.” They should not—not without public discussion and a more conscious evaluation of how this impacts social standing, stigma and identity, ethics that scientists often tend to cite pro forma and then swiftly scuttle.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

Are Single Men in the UK Entitled to have a Baby using Fertility Treatment?

Guest post by Atina Krajewska, Rachel Cahill-O’Callaghan, and Melanie Fellowes

The World Health Organisation is currently considering a change in the definition of infertility according to which, it has been reported, “single men and women without medical issues [would] be classed as ‘infertile’, if they do not have children but want to become a parent.”  Although the WHO has not to date officially confirmed these reports, the possible changes have been considered controversial and provoked heated responses in other UK media.  One of the main points of contention was the possibility of opening fertility treatment to single men.  Before we engage in discussions about the new WHO standards concerning fertility treatment, which – it should be stressed – have not yet been officially announced or adopted, it is important to shed some light on the legal situation of single men in the UK, who wish to become single fathers using fertility treatment.   This entry is aiming to exactly that.  (In respect of single women, see this.)

 

A single man wishing to have a child will have to use a surrogate and will either use the surrogate’s ovum and his sperm, or she will carry an embryo created by his sperm and a donated egg.  The HFE Act 1990 (as amended by the HFEA 2008) and the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 will therefore be the two most relevant pieces of legislation governing the area.  Neither of these Acts expressly mentions single men as a separate class of patients.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 has never prevented single persons from accessing ARTs.

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.

Bioethics News

Three-person babies IVF technique is ‘safe’

By Acacia Sheppard

Imagine having three parents, all genetically responsible for your existence. This phenomenon has been a reality in the UK since October 2015 and allows women with serious genetic disorders to have healthy babies. In a normal pregnancy, mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child –  it’s completely maternal. This puts women with mitochondrial genetic disorders at high risk of passing their disorder on to their child. Previously, there was an option for these women to carry a donated ovum via IVF. However, the child born would not genetically be the mother’s own.

 

Researchers Newcastle University have developed a technique known as pronuclear transfer that involves the extraction of nuclear genetic material from a recently fertilised embryo. The mother’s flawed mitochondria are left behind and the nuclear material is then introduced to the ovum of a second woman with normal mitochondria. This may not be 100% effective in preventing transmission, however the risk is far less than with a natural conception.

 

Naturally, the idea of a ‘three person baby’ has sparked widespread ethical debate. The most prominent criticism argues that this technique is just another fateful step down the slippery slope of so-called designer babies. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the baby, which shares less than 0.1% of its genes with a third person, would be adversely affected in any way. So, on the other hand, is it ethical to deny genetically challenged women the opportunity to become mothers on the grounds of a hypothetical future crises?

 

 

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-36481452

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.

Bioethics News

Issue of Donor Autonomy in Ovum Donation

By Maria Coluccio
At the time of birth, females have approximately 2,000,000 immature eggs and cannot produce anymore throughout their lifetime. A large majority of these eggs will die out throughout the course of a woman’s lifetime. Only approximately 400 out of the %0.02 will mature naturally. Woman who are unable to conceive due to having no eggs or poor egg quality are able to become pregnant through ovum donations. As …

The post Issue of Donor Autonomy in Ovum Donation appeared first on Global Bioethics Initiative.

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.

Bioethics News

Ethical assessment of mitochondrial replacement to prevent transmission of hereditary diseases

Are there any ethical differences to consider between the two existing mitochondrial replacement techniques? A recent article in Bioethics (Bioethics 29; 631–638, 2015) defends the advisability of using pronuclear transfer (PNT) compared to maternal spindle transfer (MST) to prevent the transmission of certain hereditary mitochondrial diseases.

MST consists of extracting the nuclear DNA from the ovum (egg) of the mother (whose mitochondria are “sick”) and placing it in a healthy enucleated ovum from a donor. Thus, the resulting ovum contains nuclear DNA from the mother and healthy mitochondria from the donor. The ovum is then fertilised in vitro. In contrast, in PNT, the replacement does not occur between ova, but between zygotes. In the first step, two ova are fertilised: one from the mother, containing the “sick” mitochondria, and one from a donor with healthy mitochondria. The DNA replacement occurs between zygotes, resulting in a zygote with the genetic contribution of the parents and the mitochondria of the donor; the other zygote is discarded.

The authors argue that, since MST is applied to the female gamete before fertilisation, it can somehow be said that the sole function of the technique is to allow the mother to have children of her own without the disease. In contrast, since PNT is applied to the zygote, this technique can be considered to act directly on the health of an already existing child, to cure it rather than to satisfy the mother’s desire to have healthy children. From this, the authors draw two conclusions. First of all, that the parents have stronger moral reasons to accept PNT than to accept MST, since not using PNT would directly harm their children, which would not be the case of MST.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

A Minority Report On the Aesthetics of Human Gene Editing

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

A few weeks ago I was watching the futuristic police procedural, Minority Report episode Memento Mori that focused on the predicted murder of a U.S. Senator who was supporting a bill (Steven’s Law) to permit parents to genetically engineer their children. Steven was the Senator’s son, a child who died because of a genetic disease that (we are told) could have been corrected in utero—if the procedure was legal. Brief images of the Senator at a campaign stop show protestors with signs both in favor of and against the new bill, reminiscent of political abortion demonstrations.

If there is a need to create a law that permits such tinkering, that means that in this fictional universe of 2065, a law must have already existed that outlawed genetic editing. Of course today in the real U.S., there is no law against genetic editing, only an agreement among researchers that human engineering should not be done. A gene editing tool known as CRISPR makes genetic engineering feasible and not-so-difficult. While many have embraced the call for a prohibition, many have not as evident from a September application in London for scientists to edit the genes of a human embryo. It is difficult to put a new technology back in the bottle, once the genie has been let out.

Today’s prohibition is limited only to humans. One of the latest genetic technologies changes genes in mosquitos to make the insects resistant to the malaria parasite. The existence of chimeric animals such as cats with glow-in-the-dark jellyfish genes demonstrates this practice.

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.

Bioethics News

Dignity of the human embryo from fecundation is recognised by the European Court of Human Rights

On 27 August, 2015, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued its judgement in the case of Parrillo vs. Italy (Application no. 46470/11), rejecting by 16 to 1 the applicants desire to donate human embryos to be used in biomedical research, an act prohibited by Italian artificial fertilisation law 40/2004.

The applicant had undergone fertility treatment – IVF – in 2002, with the creation of five embryos. However the father died before they could be transferred, so she decided not to continue with the process, but instead to donate the embryos for scientific research and thus “contribute to researching treatment for diseases that are difficult to cure”; in other words, to procure the health of the eventual future beneficiaries of the research, if it was successful, although this would necessarily mean destroying the embryos, i.e. the death of her “extrauterine” children. However, Italian law 40 of 19th February 2004 did not permit this, so after unsuccessfully concluding the entire internal judicial process, she resorted to the ECHR.

The mother alleged the existence of a real right to her embryos and a violation of article 8 of the ECHR, concerning respect for her private life which, in this case, involved destruction of the embryos at the service of science. The ECHR, after reviewing its previous rulings, recalled that human embryos cannot be reduced to “possessions”, for the purposes of the protection sought, and rejected the complaint.

 Dignity of the human embryo: exists from fertilisation itself

This is a major decision, both because of the importance of the ECHR, as a body that sets standards for theEurpean court of human rights protection of human rights for signatory countries of the ECHR, and to consolidate a trend already started in the European judicial framework counter to the consideration of embryos as “things” or objects, lacking in dignity and possible passive subjects of unlimited manipulation.

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.

Bioethics News

Early embryonic development – He who will be a man is already one

When we listen to statements on early embryo development such as how a human embryo is not a human being, or that it is only a cluster of cells, or its biological significance is questioned or other similar phrases that try to minimize or take away importance from the early stages of human life, we must remember something as basic as that after fertilisation, the human zygote, resulting from the fusion of a human ovum (egg) with a human sperm, which receives human genes, is the first biological reality of a human life.

Th early embryonic development is as a clock of life starting

Once the zygote has been formed, the clock of life is started, and the integral elements of that simple cell are triggered to begin a dynamic process that is unstoppable (unless external factors intervene), so that the life that has just been established develops. Developmental Genetics is a modern and attractive branch of Genetics that tries to explain how a complete organism is organised from one cell. It reveals to us the genetic causes of the morphological transformation observed throughout the development of living beings, applicable equally for an insect, a plant or a human being. In a first approach, we know that allmulticellular beings start from a single cell, which by successive divisions and copies of the genetic information that the zygote already possesses, will give way to the different stages of development, growing not only in number of cells, but also in complexity. At first, the cells that make up the embryo seem to be the same, but this is not so; from practically the first cell division there is already a division of roles, and the two resulting cells will follow different paths in development: one will give rise to the outer protective structures and the other to the embryo itself.

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.

Bioethics News

Parthenogenesis – A new possibility for regenerative medicine and a new bioethical dilemma

Parthenogenesis have allowed pluripotent stem cells to be obtained from oocytes (eggs) which have been stimulated to divide without having been fertilised by sperm. Can individuals be obtained from parthenogenesis? What is a partenote?

Introduction

A recent sentence from the European Court of Justice supports the possibility of patenting stem cells from ova (eggs) whose development has been stimulated without fertilisation, with the condition that this stimulated egg cannot become a human being1.

Biotechnology company International Stem Cell Corporation (ISCO) has submitted two patent applications to the appropriate authorities in the United Kingdom; these relate to a technology that produces stem cells from ova activated without sperm, using chemical and electrical techniques, by a process known as parthenogenesis.

London turned down both applications, pursuant to a Justice Court decision in 2011. However, the company appealed, alleging that the restrictions on patentability set by this ruling are not applicable to their technology, since the activated ovum cannot become a human being because it lacks paternal DNA.

The ruling was favourable to the company, on the basis that “in order to be classified as a human embryo, a non-fertilised human ovum must necessarily have the inherent capacity of developing into a human being”. “Consequently, the mere fact that a parthenogenetically-activated human ovum commences a process of development is not sufficient for it to be regarded as a human embryo“, as set forth in the judgment.

So, what is parthenogenesis?                                                                                                                       

The reproductive possibility known as “parthenogenesis”, which occurs naturally in some reptiles and lower animals, was first artificially induced in sea urchins in 1899 by German-American scientist Jacques Loeb (1859-1924).

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.