Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sex Selection of In vitro Babies

At the link is an article on the increasing use of DNA tests of embryos fertilized in vitro, not for medical purposes, but to choose the sex of a couples next child.

There are several moral problems involved.

An embryo is a human being at a very early stage of development. But there is no scientific or moral basis for denying either that human embryos are alive or that they are human. So, techniques that risk or kill an embryo, risk or kill a living human being.

First, in vitro fertilization normally involves the creation of Multiple embryos and the use of only one or a few. The other are usually frozen and slowly die of molecular deterioration.

Second, the technique used to test the DNA of embryos carries a risk with it. In order to perform the test, a single cell is removed from the embryo. Because the embryo is so small, this test posses a significant risk to the life of the embryo. A tiny slip, and the embryo can be killed or damaged. Performing the test, even to detect medical problems is problematic because, in the general population, the probability of accidental harm to the embryo is as significant as the probability of many of the genetic diseases the test is being used to scene.

And third, in the case of sex screening, not only are humans subjected to an unnecessary risk to life and limb in the performance of the test, but the test is being performed with the intent to kill or freeze the embryo for slow death if it is not the desired sex.

Technology can be a wonderfully good thing. But it can also be used to make it easy to kill and wound people without ever seeing them or being confronted with the killed and wounded. We must learn to look to the results of our choices in the use of technology and learn not to do things that kill and harm others, or put others at unreasonable risk, even though it may be easy to ignore the problems our choices cause. Human embryos are among the weakest and most powerless of all human beings. They have no voice and, no one sees them, except, with in vitro fertilization, the lab lab workers who bring them into life or take that life away. But like people downstream from a spill of deadly chemicals, or the baby subjected to an abortion, they suffer and are robbed of life by the choices we make. Because they are human we cannot claim to own them. We should not treat other human beings like property. May God have mercy on their souls and on ours.

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