02 August 2007

Saviour Siblings or Spare-part Kids?

test tube babyFirst, prospective parents could attempt to have a baby by in vitro fertilisation.

Next, parents were permitted to screen test-tube embryos to seek a match for an existing child with a potentially terminal illness.

Now the parliamentary committee charged with reviewing the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill is proposing that parents should be allowed to create so-called "saviour siblings" in an attempt to treat older brothers and sisters with non-life-threatening conditions.

What do you think? Should we heed the transhumanists and embrace every technological chance to improve on the design of humans? Or is this just another example of the slippery slope, another step towards creating "designer babies"?


Andrew Kennedy said...

Step by step we are heading to a Eugenic-based society.

Well intentioned legislation is invariably redefined by the courts and the result is inevitable liberalisation.

Take, for example, David Steel's Abortion Act of 1967. Safeguards built into the Bill at the time, legalising abortion "only when the Mother's life is at risk" or when there was "evidence of extreme foetal abnormality" were instrumental in gaining the Bill sufficient support to become law. Yet over the ensuing 40 years, liberal judicial activism has redefined those terms to a point where now we have abortion on demand, and for far too many, abortion as a means of contraception. This happened without any further primary legislation until the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act reduced the time limit to 24 weeks.

The same well intentioned philosophy strengthens and encourages those who support Euthanasia. No doubt many stricken patients, and their carers, would welcome such legislation. I was personally tested during my Mother's twelve month struggle with terminal cancer. In my case, however, my own liberal view was turned to opposition as I witnessed the dignity of my Mother's personal struggle. Towards the very end of her life, she was "confirmed" into the Church of England when the Bishop of Chester visited the hospital especially for her service. Following her Confirmation she left her bed for the first time in 5 weeks, she chatted to her friends and family, ate well and even drank a glass or two of sherry. Afterwards she told me it was one of the happiest days of her life and that she had finally found the strength to face what she knew was ahead. Two days later, she died in peace. I have little doubt that had Euthanasia been legalised, my Mother might not have lived to see that day.

My real opposition, however, is based on the example of the Steel Bill. I have little doubt that once legislation on Euthanasia is enacted whatever safeguards and caveats introduced in the original Bill would be redefined and reinterpreted by the Courts, encouraged by those who view balance sheets above human life. Surely, given the precedent, it wouldn’t be long before terminally ill patients had to “opt-out” of being euthanatized at the time of their admission. I fear the 2006 Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists submission to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (supporting the introduction of euthanasia of disabled newborns) is the thin end of the wedge.

We already have a society which allows, for all intents and purposes, abortion on demand and which is actively considering legislation that will allow the state to euthanize the terminally sick. Technology exists through research into the Human Genome that might soon allow us to identify not only disabilities, but also sex, sexual orientation, eye and hair colour of embryos and the sickening (yet I fear inevitable) introduction of reprogenetics.

In 1932 Aldous Huxley wrote about such a society in Brave New World. Personally I fear such a dystopian society would be neither brave nor new. In fact, by the enactment of ill conceived legislation, institutional liberalism, judicial activism and a laissez faire attitude to the value and sanctity of life, we are creating a very similar society that millions died to defeat in the 1940’s.