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  1. 1. TEST TUBE BABIES : ethics
  2. 2. The first test tube baby When Louise Brown was born, it really startled the public and got people thinking and talking… at least initially, it made a lot of people more positive toward biotechnology than they had been. After all, her birth appeared to make it the case that the problem of infertility would be solved. People were too optimistic about that. Of course in the majority of cases, in vitro fertilization does not result in a successful pregnancy. But nevertheless, a lot of people were very enthusiastic and saw this as solving a terrible problem. And infertility certainly is a terrible problem, terrible burden for people to have to bear.
  3. 3. Today’s stem cell debate In vitro fertilization is a way of creating a new human being, in the embryonic stage, in a petri dish, outside of a human body. Embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of the embryo in order to obtain stem cells, which might then be used for scientific purposes… There is an industry that has created perhaps as many as 400,000 excess embryos, human beings in the embryonic stage of development, who are now in a kind of never-never-land, a kind of limbo, frozen in cryopreservation units…...They don’t know whether they will, in the end, as their proponents are suggesting, have therapeutic value, but they’re probably useful in basic science, and some people would find that sufficient to support even embryo destruction, to obtain stem cells for research. But there are plenty of people who favor in vitro fertilization and plenty of people who have themselves undergone in vitro treatment, who are opposed to the destruction of embryos, who are very concerned that the embryos who are created be allowed to continue their natural development. And of course there are some people who are opposed to in vitro fertilization, but who think that once in vitro fertilization takes place, and embryos are created, and some of those embryos are excess embryos that probably won’t be implanted and so will have very little in the way of a life prospect (they’ll be frozen away, for example), some people who oppose IVF nevertheless say, well, we should use those embryos, even if it means destroying them, in order to obtain their stem cells.
  4. 4. stem cell
  5. 5. If you look today at current debates about stem cell technology, as Yogi Berra once said, “It’s deja vu all over again.” All the debates are the same. There is a complete cycling of worries about the moral status of embryos, the safety of the procedure in terms of making cells by stem cell engineering that are not abnormal, that wouldn’t, if put in your body, kill you or run amok. There’s a lot of concern about the unnaturalness of stem cell engineering. There’s a fair amount of concern, if you will, that stem cell technology is just not a nice thing to do, that it’s yucky to do it — even if it does cure people. So many of the issues that came up around in vitro fertilization have reverberations and echoes into debates about things like stem cell research. There is 400,000 embryos and growing every day, in America, that they don’t really know what to do with, because they’ve never answered the question: Who’s got custody? Who can control them? Who determines their fate? So that’s an obvious place to regulate…...What they did, both at the state legislatures and the federal legislature, was say, “Okay. Abortion is going to cost me votes. Whatever I do, it’s going to get people mad at me. This technology is all about embryos. Embryos get me in the middle of the abortion debate. I’m not talking about that. Goodbye. I don’t want to legislate, regulate, or have anything to say here.” So the legacy of that avoidance is that they never had a kind of sustained public debate about any of those questions, and they, in a sense, stumble toward answers but we never resolve them.
  6. 6. IVF on going debate Arthur Caplan: “I’ve always been fascinated about the fact that no one, to my knowledge, has ever demonstrated, picketed, chained themselves to the doorway of an in vitro fertilization clinic. And it’s not because there have not been condemnations from important religious leaders about the immorality of test tube baby technology. It’s not because critics haven’t worked themselves up to worry about where this is all going. Test tube baby technology is seen by almost every American as pro-life technology. Normally those who worry about this technology say: Is this the right way to make a baby? Is this an acceptable way to make a baby? I think most Americans say: Who cares? If you get babies, and infertile couples want them, and they’re the biological offspring of those couples, and those couples don’t have many other options (adoption being something that’s relatively difficult to do), then this is a great technology. There’s no reason at all to try and chain yourself to the door of the infertility clinic. If you did so, people would walk around you. You’d get no sympathy, you’d have no interest, because this technology is just seen as so pro-life that even if it involves embryo destruction or weird things like using a surrogate mother, there is no way you’re going to build a movement against it. And we can see that even today. The president in 2001 said, “I’m against embryo destruction, and we’re not going to have any more stem cell research paid for by government money.” But the President of the United States has never lifted a finger to stop embryo destruction in infertility clinics. He can’t. He would become persona non grata all over the country if he stepped in and said, “I’m sorry, infertile people, you can’t destroy embryos in the process of trying to have children.” That’s not just a politically viable point of view.
  7. 7. Conclusion We cannot simply lay aside the debate over in vitro fertilization, because after all, in vitro fertilization has made it possible for some couples who would otherwise not have children to have children. Even knowing that it has made that possible for couples, and applauding the happiness that couples have because of the children who were born to them in that way, we still must have the debate. Questions of human dignity and questions of human health are implicated. Those questions have not been answered, and we need to answer them. That can only be done in a democratic society by civil, respectful, if intense, democratic debate.