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Hurtling down the slippery slope

Posted by MDViews on January 13, 2007

The slippery slope is already greased and its incline tilted down. Now from Texas comes news, that to some, greases and tilts the slippery slope even more. But has it?

According to the Associated Press, Jennalee Ryan, who runs the Abraham Center for Life in San Antonio, Texas, sells ready-made embryos for $5,000/pair. Couples can select embryos based on the donor’s education, ethnicity, looks (photos) and other factors. Sperm donors must have doctorate and are paid $400/vial. Egg donors must be young, intelligent and attractive and are paid $3,500, but can get more if they have advance education or a unique skill, characteristic or trait.

“Who wants an ugly, stupid kid?” she told the Associated Press. Not her, apparently.

Her new approach of selling embryos is morally offensive because it is “selling” an unborn human. Is it immoral? Of course! Dealing in humans is wrong. To “buy” a human being, albeit, a very young human being, should never be allowed. Does anyone ask the embryo if he or she wants to be sold like furniture? Of course not! Should a doctor be allowed to start an embryo with no intent to implant it–unless someone ponies up the cash? No! So this procedure is morally reprehensible in my mind.

However, Ms. Ryan points out, “Anybody off the street can walk into a clinic and do exactly what I’m doing. They can hire an egg donor, they can hire a sperm donor, and they can create embryos,…”

And she is right.

Have you ever wondered why an in vitro procedure is so expensive? I have. $8-10,000/cycle floats out of the desperate couple’s wallet into the hands of those helping start that little embryo. Where does all that money go? An outpatient ultrasound-guided needle aspiration retrieves an egg. Retrieval requires no significant anesthesia and needs no operating room. Getting the woman to produce a bunch of eggs does require several ultrasound tests and lab tests. Collecting the sperm is minor. The actual in vitro combination is done in a petri dish. Inserting the embryo is less painful than retrieving the egg. You can contend that there is no “sale” of human tissue or parts in that, but it is a cash-up-front, profit-generating machine that makes doctors rich. What are the patients paying for, if not that small embryo who gets inserted? The sperm donor receives a fee for his service, albeit a small fee, but I know he does get money. And an egg donor gets more, because there is some pain involved in donating an egg. Isn’t that selling the parts to start the embryo? Ms. Ryan is just a tad more resourceful and calls a spade a spade. She calls it “selling”, which it is. She eliminates the middle man, which will not sit well with profitable in vitro clinics. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a rash of new found religion coming from the in vitro industry, an industry where the end has always justified the means.

Because, if you’re a woman with a uterus and the money, you can conceive at an in vitro clinic, no questions asked. Singles, gay couples, gestational carriers (surrogates), the very old–nothing is out-of-bounds. It seems to me Ms. Ryan offers just that, only cheaper and more out in the open.

Let me add that I am not Catholic. The Catholic church prohibits any reproduction outside the act of intercourse. For me, at least, as a Christian OBGYN doctor, I see no problem with a married couple using technology to help them conceive, even if an in vitro procedure is needed. A murkier issue for me is donor egg and donor sperm. I’m opposed to conception outside of traditional marriage.

So, where’s our moral outrage over the current practices of the in vitro clinics? Why aren’t they being investigated for the very practice Ms. Ryan now does in the open? Moral outrage is needed, but it needs directing at more than Ms. Ryan.

I’ve read nothing else by any Christian pastors, commentators or columnists. These are my thoughts.

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