Philobiblon: One for Brecht: a real moral quandary

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

One for Brecht: a real moral quandary

The European Court of Human Rights has today rejected an appeal from a woman who wants her frozen embryos implanted, against the wishes of the man who provided the sperm (when they were partners).

Natallie Evans, 35, from Wiltshire, made an emotional plea to her former fiancé to change his mind and let her use the embryos, which cannot be implanted without his consent [under British law].
Ms Evans was receiving fertility treatment in October 2001 when doctors discovered pre-cancerous cells on her ovaries. She immediately underwent a course of IVF, which produced six embryos fertilised by the sperm of her fiancé, Howard Johnston, before having her ovaries removed to head off the disease.
The next year, however, the couple split and Mr Johnston wrote to the fertility clinic asking it to destroy the stored embryos.

Two judges dissented from the ruling, which makes an appeal to the absolute final court, the Grand Chamber, where it would be heard by 17 judges.

It is what you call a really tough one. A man surely has a right not to have children without consent, so I guess in the end while I have to feel for Evans, he should not be forced into parenthood.

And the suggestion of a "right to parenthood" suggested by the dissenting judge worries me. If there were such a thing, just how far would a society have to go to make it happen? How much money might have to be spent on IVF?

... particularly when you think of what that money might achieve elsewhere in the world, Indonesia for example, where it sounds like HIV is getting seriously out of control, as a combined result of a large sex industry in which education about condoms has scarcely impacted, and a large injecting drug problem.

Indonesia’s ethnic minority provinces have been hardest hit by AIDS. In Papua, Merauke has an infection rate of more than 8% and Sorong has the country's highest level of infection at 16%. Even in the capital, transvestite and transsexual prostitutes in Jakarta have an infection rate of 22%.

The article from which that drawn is very US propaganda-ish, but I've no reason to doubt the figures.
For light relief, Nintendo is planning to introduce video games designed to ward off Alzheimer's in the over-45s, supposedly through mental stimulation. Dare I suggest reading a book, or watching a play, or ... just participating in life?


Blogger Penny L. Richards said...

Books are stimulating, but they don't spark the same neurological processes as a video game. And as for plays--they're expensive, and in many locales infrequent--hardly reliable prevention there. Participating in life, yes, lovely, if your life is full of stimulation and challenge--but many are not.

3/07/2006 07:07:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the frozen embryo situation, while I agree that a man should not be forced into fatherhood, shouldn't he have taken that stand *before* contributing his sperm to fertilize those eggs? Does he have the right to prevent Evans from having biological children, which he is still capable of having whenever he decides he wants them? It seems to me that this is the moral equivalent of a man forcing a woman to have an abortion she does not want, because he's decided he doesn't want the child. Is there any court that would support him in that situation?

3/08/2006 07:26:00 pm  
Blogger clanger said...

As both parties made a contribution to the cause, so to speak, I'm guessing that both have a veto when it comes to going ahead, which seems fair.

Perhaps its best to sort out the paperwork on these things before reaching for the pipette.

Or get your love tadpoles from:

Frozen, Thawing, Cook-Chill and UHT.

3/08/2006 09:45:00 pm  

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