Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Ovarian transplants

CNN reports the recent birth of a child from a woman who had an ovarian transplant from her twin sister. Read it then return here.

The question: Are ovarian transplants morally acceptable?

I offer two countervailing arguments. In all honesty, I have no preference for either. I bring this up because I am truly stumped by this.

Argument in favor: This procedure involves a surgical intervention in the woman to correct a deformity that prevents her from conceiving children through normal, vaginal intercourse. Like the correction of blocked fallopian tubes, or even the outright BYPASS of blocked fallopian tubes that still allows a woman to conceive naturally, the procedure maintains the integrity within the married couple of the threefold purposes of sexuality; procreative, unitive and pleasure. Looking at the situation in this fashion, it appears that the procedure is morally licit.

Argument against: One could argue that the procedure still violates the procreative component of sexuality, in that the woman is carrying the child of genetic union of her husband's sperm and her donor's egg, thereby rendering her role to one that is little removed from surrogate motherhood. This argument revolves around the idea that part of the procreative wonder of sexuality is intimately tied into the unique genetic packages each parent brings to the conjugal act; that in the individual uniqueness each parent brings and then is united in the fertilization of the egg and the creation of new life (in creating a unique combination of genetic material) there is a particular interaction that takes place, peculiar to that couple that cannot be substituted through the replacement of genetic material native to the woman with material native to another woman. The child, in a sense, becomes offspring of the father and the donor woman, not the man's wife.

Adultery? Surrogate motherhood? A correction of a simple organic problem? Let's have some debate on this one. Frankly, my head spins when I consider this.

Some additional details to consider: My understanding is that the women involved in the CNN story are identical twins, though I can't seem to confirm that. If so, then the genetic argument against this procedure may be mitigated in that the genetic material transplanted is identical. However, for purposes of discussion, let us assume the following:

The transplant does not affect the procreative abilities of the donor
The technology is available to recipients that are not perfectly matched genetically with their donors, as is the case with many other transplants.

Whenever I get hammered by the argument that solascriptura is sufficient in determining moral issues, all we need to do is point to current affairs such as this one, that could not POSSBILY have been envisioned 2000 years ago.
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