August 20, 2007

Commercializing Human Life in Canada

Margaret Somerville is probably the most famous ethicist in Canada. She is a professor of both medicine and law at McGill University in Montreal, and she has a very special role in Canadian public life. In a testament to the fact that human nature has a need for a sure moral compass, for a definite right and wrong even when they no longer believe in God, Margaret Somerville is the unofficial priest of Canadian atheism. This is not a role that is only hers, because it is true of nearly every ethicist these days. But she is the most well known of these gurus of right and wrong, who tell people what is right when people no longer believe in an absolute right and wrong.

But I digress. Regardless of where Margaret Somerville gets her personal ethical convictions, she does seem to get it right most of the time.

The other day, Somerville wrote an excellent article in the Ottawa Citizen (she also wrote a similar article on MercatorNet). She discusses how in Canada, a growing coalition of disparate interests is trying to push for the further commercialization of human life in the "baby business", the reproductive industry. Currently Canada doesn't allow surrogates and gamete donors to be paid for their services. A lot of people who have something at stake are complaining about this and are gearing up to pressure for changes. Where would this lead us? Right down the ol' road to the depersonalization of the human person, basically: we are turning children, people and human body parts into objects for sale and ownership. Wombs for sale, eggs for sale, sperm for sale, embryos for sale, babies for sale (by traditional surrogates) - highest price based on highest quality, best quality to the highest bidder! People for sale, lives for sale. Buy a person, buy a life. Freedom for sale. That's called being "progressive."

These is a chance to do something about it right now. The Assisted Human Reproduction Office of Canada is holding a public consultation on this issue, and the deadline for comments is September 14, 2007. Anyone can comment. Please consider submitting your comments. You can read the consultation document and find out how to comment here (it's the first document at the top of the page).


Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity - apparently there is a new technique in donor eggs, where the genetic nucleus (the yolk of the egg, if you like) is replaced by the recipient's yolk, keeping the much younger mitochrondrial (or white of the egg) supporting the older yolk. The resultant child would be the genetic match to the recipient; the donor would be giving only the white of the egg, not their genetic material. Would this be acceptable in your eyes? Is the complaint more that the child is the genetic child of the donor? Or are you against any form of donation whatsoever?

Veronica Thomas said...

Thanks for your question.

You are talking about human cloning. If all the genetic material (apart from the mitochondrial DNA) comes from the recipient, then the resulting child will be a nearly "identical twin" or "clone" of the recipient, who would then give birth to his or her own sibling/clone/twin.

I am concerned for the rights of the child that is born as a result of this technology. The child would not have a biological mother and father in the usual sense, since it did not come about through the fusion of a sperm and an egg. Its relationship to its cloned "parent" would be unclear and unprecedented. Also, we really have no idea how cloning could affect the resulting child, what health problems and other issues it could have. We would be using and abusing these human lives for a scientific experiment.

Many people have serious and legitimate problems with the idea of human reproductive cloning, which has also been banned in many countries and condemned by the United Nations.