Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Frozen Embryos -- Control vs. Human Dignity

Apparently, because of the research and effort of this "Special to the Washington Post" writer, we have a new reason to use IVF -- a harvest and freeze for a later option even when a couple is perfectly able to conceive and have a baby on their own. I don't know that she is the first to propose this bizarre idea, but Gillian St. Lawrence certainly seems to take credit for it in her piece:

By freezing embryos, couples try to utilize fertility while delaying parenthood


St. Lawrence (not the saint, but the author) tries to paint a rational, intellectual, and sophisticated picture of she and her husband's pursuit to delay having children by extraordinary means. They wanted to be "financially stable" and prepared to have a family. Who doesn't? Did she and her husband also want to give themselves freely and completely to one another through the gift of self? That is only one problem with the reasoning behind this notion of freezing human beings for later "USE" -- the fact that it is completely self-centered and me-oriented.

Did they consider, as they "natrually harvested" her eggs, and her husband went off to secrete the other necessary component to create their future utilizable embryo, that again, they were denying the gift of self, and condemning their offspring to potential death in the freezing/thawing/implanting process? St. Lawrence tries to use research, of course favorable to IVF, to promote the new freezing technology that will spare her children freezer burn.

(Did I just write that? Yes, unfortunately, I did.)

Can you imagine ever making the decision to freeze a child out of convenience? The notion borders on abuse and is a tragic assault on the dignity of the human person to be frozen. Who would have the audacity to put their own offspring through a process like that in order to prioritize their life according to wants and desires? I can't really ask that question, can I? People choose to kill their unborn babies everyday for that very purpose.

St. Lawrence writes this about assessing the IVF process:
"First, we considered IVF in general: Would it produce a baby as healthy as one conceived naturally?"
Already we see the distinction -- IVF produces a baby, conception is natural. Thus, in her own statement she reduces her child to a commodity.

She goes on to discuss the depth of research she embarked upon, as if she were about to purchase a car. Now that she had found out how the process worked to make the purchase, she needed a garage. She writes:
Furthermore, freezing technology keeps improving. Drew Tortoriello, a physician with the Sher Institute for Reproductive Medicine in New York, introduced us to vitrification, an ultra-rapid process that prevents the formation of damaging ice crystals in the embryo, which had been a danger in older, slower freezing methods. He reported a successful thaw rate of better than 95 percent.
Again, we are talking about a child, one that she is saving for later. That choice includes a 5% probability of death at thawing, but none of those bad, bad ice crystals. What about the rate of death via unsuccessful implantation? These embryos just seem to be expendable. Where is the parental compassion in this? How does research make up for the fact that personal whim is more important than the dignity and value of the life that is being so woefully produced in a laboratory and then isolated in a freezer.

But, from the joy of no ice crystals, we go to the worry of PMS caused by the in vitro drugs often used by fertility specialists. Again, who is more important in this process -- take a guess. She offers:
From the beginning, I'd been worried about the drugs involved in IVF. Typically, women undergoing treatment get repeated hormone shots that stimulate ovaries to produce numerous eggs, so the clinic can harvest a large number in one or two menstrual cycles. Besides being taxing and time-consuming, the drug injections can cause PMS-type symptoms, pain, missed work. They scared me.
"They scared me," St. Lawrence writes. But, freezing your offspring doesn't? Is there something amiss in this statement? Her "baby blastocysts" won't cause her any pain, right now at least -- perhaps only in the wallet. The cost of this procedure, which she calls, "insurance against future infertility" will be somewhere around $30,000 -- a significant savings, more than $40,000 less than IVF for infertile couples. I can't even believe she made the cost comparison, but then she adds that insurance may cover some of her costs -- for an unnecessary medical procedure! We all need her insurance coverage!

Perhaps, I have some modicum of sympathy for those desperate enough to consider and even carry out IVF. I am, however, never in agreement that they are choosing a moral path. Sadly, to choose this medically invasive option when a couple is perfectly capable of conceiving a child on their own is no less than morally corrupt. It is some small comfort, as a friend pointed out, that some doctors actually had the ethical integrity to say no to such a suggestion when she inquired. Fertility clinics are for profit businesses, unfortunately, and so St. Lawrence opened up the possibility of a new avenue for income with her request. It would be a grave disservice to the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of the marital act to promote this option as a valuable medical procedure for the professional, eager to advance/not willing to sacrifice young couples.

2 comments:

Allison said...

I was hoping you'd see this when I read it this morning. I had computer problems and couldn't email you. This piece was beyond disturbing and disgusting. And the worst part is that many people will think, "What a great idea!" Did you catch the article a couple of pages over that said contraception will be one of the covered "preventive" healthcare services under the new healthcare plan. The Post was batting 1000 this morning.

Kathy said...

I have to admit, I typically read a different paper. But, if I want plenty to talk about on my blog, I'll have to reconsider this decision. Most of the fodder is in the POST or the NY TIMES online. :o)