The Ethical Argument Surrounding Assisted Reproductive Technology ART – Ethics Essay
Prompt: Assisted Reproductive Technology is an issue with many facets that tend to contribute to the ethical arguments surrounding it. Three subissues in particular, including access to this technology, the definition of a parent/conflicting claims on custody, and the commodification of people, contribute to the
ethical argument on ART, all in a rather negative manner.
First, access to this technology seems to make ART unethical. ART is an extremely expensive procedure, ranging into the tens of thousands of dollars and up for something that may not even be successful, and this is before the baby is ever born. It is obvious that only people with access to such funds would be able to take advantage of this technology. In this case, only the very well-off would be able to have children at an advanced age or under certain physical conditions; thus, less wealthy people would not be able to have their own children. Taken to an extreme, this could be seen as a form of genetic “purification” of society, where the very wealthy are able to have more children than the less wealthy. In addition to the high cost, this technology is more available in certain geographical areas, including the U.S. West Coast and Northeast and Western Europe. Even if they could afford it, people in Africa, Asia, or South America would have to fly somewhere else to obtain access to ART. Again, taken to the extreme, this could be seen as a “purification” of the human race, with people in the U.S. and Europe having more ready access to this technology and thus more able to take advantage of it. While Stock and Fuykuyama argue over government regulation of this technology in the text, it seems that the more important issue is the fact that access to this technology is limited to very wealthy individuals who tend to live in the U.S. and Europe.
Secondly, ART seems to change the definition of a parent, making custody battles – already a difficult topic – even more complicated, and further adding to the argument that ART is not necessarily ethical. As we see in the case with the triplets, parenthood in ART is a complicated affair because you have several sets of contributors to these children’s lives: the donor mother and/or father, the intending mother/father, and/or the surrogate mother all can feel that they have the rights to these children. First, the donor mother and/or father are the genetic parents; they can feel a genetic connection with those children who may look or act just like them. The court just ruled that even these people, who signed a contract to sell their eggs or sperm to an ART company, have rights over the children, and granted custody of those triplets to the egg-donor mother. Then there are the intending mother and/or father. They are the people who are spending all this money to have these children; these are the ones who say they will take care of these children and raise them as their own. But are they their own? The courts have ruled in the father’s favor in this case, but then it was reversed. Do intending parents have just as much right to the children as the biological parents? Finally there is the surrogate mother, who formed connections with these children for nine months as she carried them around. Would a surrogate not be informed that she may develop feelings for these children as she carried them? It would seem that this business would take into account the fact that a pregnant woman more often than not forms connections with the unborn children that intending and biological parents cannot otherwise make. And unless that woman is willing to completely give up her claim on the children and cut all emotional ties to them, it would seem that putting a woman through that emotional pain would be unethical. Thus, judging from the issues surrounding the definition of a parent, ART seems to be an unethical practice.
Finally, the issue of the commodification of people is a more cloudy subissue for ART; it could be argued in two ways. First, from the very beginning, when a woman decides to donate her eggs or a man his sperm, some people can argue that we are buying and selling human beings or at the very least, the make up of humans. Should this not be akin to slavery? Slavery is wrong in the sense that we are treating people like cattle, mere commodities, like something that can be assigned a monetary value, when, in fact, are humans not more valuable than money? On the other hand, others argue against this, saying that a human is not a human until conception, and some go even further to say a human becomes a human at birth. Otherwise, would a woman not be accused of murder every time she menstruates? And what about all those sperm that men waste? We would all be in jail. I suppose the difference between these points of view is that in the first argument, we are selling our eggs or sperm in order to create human beings, whereas the second argument is a natural process, not an intentional disposal of human material. Intention, then, would be very important in this argument. Depending on which side of the intention argument you lie, the commodification of people could contribute to or detract from the ethical argument against ART.
And so, ART can be argued as unethical from the points of access and parent definition, while it can be supported as ethical or unethical from the issue of commodification.