This article will try to address the considerations necessary in reproduction which is not done the natural or traditional way with coital sex. Call it test tube babies if you want but ultimately it is the quest for an ideal child with all the desirable traits or characteristics which a married couple envision or desire in their minds.
Genetic parents who are married and have sex the natural way should only be screened for severe health problems which their natural offspring could inherit. This can be done by consulting a licensed physician who can call for all the necessary testing. If it is mandatory testing then it is a mandate by the government and should be codified law.
In vitro or technology assisted fertilization should consider three basic variables. The 3 issues or variables in technology assisted reproduction are having quality moral parents, getting quality children, and raising children in a quality environment.
It is sometimes debatable what quality humans and a quality environment really means. Who determines or judges what a quality human or quality environment is? Is it the married couple, is it a physician, is it a social or family counselor, is it a licensed fertility clinic or reproductive organization, is it the government, or does it depend on some or all of the 5 possibilities depending on the circumstances?
In an ideal world when questioning quality it is essentially trying to guarantee that parents are free of genetic severe diseases and are financially, mentally, and morally able to raise responsible healthy offspring or children.
If the parents are not financially, morally, and mentally competent then government welfare may be needed at some point in the future to support one or both spouses and their offspring or children. Bad choices often means government intervention or support at taxpayer’s expense so the reality is that “experts” will have to come up with quality standards and legislators will have to make the appropriate laws. For example as one extreme, not insisting on quality reproduction can result in three generations of imbeciles which I don’t think any rational citizen would want in society.
Government laws about human quality run the risk of a national eugenics program designed to minimize bad quality humans and is subject to bias, corruption, and oppression which is undesirable. General guideline laws or standards are best.
For example, a law can state that all technology assisted fertilization must involve a licensed fertility reproductive organization which has licensed physicians and licensed social or family counselors. The law may also state what minimum requirements a licensed physician, licensed social or family counselor, and licensed reproductive organization must have in reproductive procedures.
When using a reproductive institution, quality humans is the ideal in child selection or “adoptions” but we have to accept the fact that some parents will select desirable offspring with an emphasis on looks rather than health and IQ which are the hidden desirable characteristics far more important than physical appearance.
Humans having non parental genetic material in a child must hire a third party such as a reproductive institution which has physicians and social or family counselors to help determine the approximate health, financial, physical, moral, and mental competence of the role model parents, the donors of sperm and/or ovaries, and potential children. What this means is that thorough genetic testing must be done to screen for potential severe genetic disabilities or diseases for the genetic donors of sperm or ovaries, male and female.
There is also the possibility of surrogate mothers who gestate sperm and ovary from donors or just use a sperm donor and provide their own genetic material and then gestate or conceive a fully developed fetus. With surrogate mothers there is also the need for them to eat nutritious food, nutritious drinks and not take drugs of any kind during the pregnancy which may include smoking. Recommended also is that surrogates have successfully naturally conceived at least one offspring of their own.
Through contract there must be provisions on what happens if the designated parents die or if the pregnancy does not go to full term. Who will do the advocated breast feeding or use mother’s milk and what adoption agency will be used if both legal parents die during the pregnancy?
Social counselors must certify that the legal parents who get the surrogate child are relatively healthy, financially, physically, morally, and mentally capable of raising the child, and not plagued with severe addictions to drugs and other severe bad habits.
It will soon be possible to alter the genetic makeup of natural offspring with DNA splicing and reconnecting minus an undesirable gene and plus a desirable gene. This will in effect be a GMO or genetically modified offspring and the long duration health consequences will often be unknown. Should the government permit this with humans or should it be a matter of parental choice and risk?
I personally believe it should be a matter of personal choice without government intervention unless certain GMO offspring start to develop severe health handicaps later in life.
Since reproductive technology is getting more complex and expensive with time some may argue that quality offspring or children will mostly be created for rich humans and that ultimately there will be an elite ruling class of genetically superior humans. I do not fear this because ultimately the price of the reproductive technology will come down and even the middle class will be able to afford the reproductive procedures in the long duration.
Worldwide the rich are getting richer and the rest remain relatively poor. Democratic Republics may ultimately give way to Aristocracies and in that case history will just repeat itself. We will have ruling families again worldwide and a different form of government based mostly on genetics and not so much based on genetics and merit.
Whatever the future course for reproductive technology, I think that the most important ingredient should be total transparency. The identity, genetic makeup, and social status and history of all sperm and ovary donors should become private and then public records in cases of bankruptcy so that donors can be traced or found if diseases appear in their offspring due to genetic defects, an irresponsible lifestyle, or laboratory dangerous procedures or negligence. There will be legal suits brought against reproductive organizations for diseased or sick children and there should be a right to access all information relevant to the suit including the identities of the donors.
There is also a moral component and some may object that modern reproductive technology is really selling babies to the highest bidder. It is possible to envision some rich married humans contracting to have babies created for them which they then give up for adoption to an even higher bidder. If there is total transparency in adoption agencies and reproduction institutions then this kind of baby selling could be detected and terminated.
There is some truth that parental genetic offspring are to some extent psychologically more rewarding because you can feel pride in the fact that your children look like you to some extent and do not present rearing challenges which are overwhelming. You can envision a poor couple who adopts a gifted child which they then have a hard time controlling and raising in a moral way in perhaps a poor neighborhood with a lot of peer pressure against smart children.
Licensed social or family counselors are important in pointing out to potential parents the drawbacks to having exceptionally bright children that don’t look like the parents. Not having enough money to raise children is another environmental factor which is so important for the benefit of the child so a social or family counselor should screen married couples who want superior children but are economically challenged.
Screening of parents is fundamentally so important because parents really should be as moral as possible, healthy, and financially responsible. This screening is no guarantee that the parents will love their “adopted” children without their genetic makeup but it is an important start.
As always, reproductive technology is advancing so quickly that old moral attitudes or traditions are being challenged and laws must be changed to reflect the new morality. Call reproductive technology a human experiment which will alter the way that we think about humanity perhaps morally and qualitatively.
Reproductive technology is an experiment which is creating much joy in human lives with some rare exceptions and the good thing is that with transparency, if the experiment gets out of hand then just changes can be made to make the experiment more just and practical.
What seems like a social experiment today will probably be social accepted fact in the long duration. I personally see mostly good things coming out of reproductive technology with the possible exception of GMO humans which can potentially produce some terrifying results if handled irresponsibly. You may object to human experimentation as being immoral but I feel that it is OK if sufficient financial escrows are set up to deal with the unfortunate experimental mistakes which are bound to happen sooner or later so that taxpayers do not have to pay for the mistakes through the government.
There are some on moral grounds who object to lesbian married couples and homosexual married couples adopting or having children with their genetic input. I think that married heterosexual couples are the ideal choice for parents but if you have quality moral gays, quality children, and a quality environment then you could argue that it is still in the best interest of the child in a modern world where families are breaking up and increasingly scarce whether it is a gay or natural happy family situation.
There are increasingly more ways that a human can reproduce through technological reproduction. I prefer the natural way with natural sex to conceive a child but there are many couples who can’t or shouldn’t conceive naturally or are not happy with their genetic makeup or their lack of talent. Reproductive technology gives these married moral responsible couples the opportunity to have children which they can then go on to love, care for, and be proud of.
If you want further details on the ethics of reproductive technology go to the edX course by Harvard: hls4x Bioethics: The Law, Medicine, and Ethics of Reproductive Technologies and Genetics.
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