February 02, 2008

Baby manufacturing defect II

Last September, the media reported that a lesbian couple is suing their doctor for transferring two embryos rather than one. They want $400k for their damages in having to raise two girls rather than just one.

The doc is defending himself by saying that although the transfer of two embryos was a bona fide mistake, the rate of "embryo splitting" is also high in IVF and the embryo could have split on its own even if only one was transferred; hence, the doc alleges that he owed the mothers no duty of producing only one child.

It's not clear who will win that one. In the immediate dispute I would lean towards the plaintiffs. Yes, the doc owed them no duty of final outcome - however, he did have the responsibility of carrying out his end of the bargain without error. He did err, and raised their chances of a twin outcome from a certain lower percentage to a higher percentage.

Notice the lesbians did, according to the story, briefly consider giving one of the girls up for adoption. But they chose not to - and yet, they still want damages. How could they still believe they are entitled to receive funding for raising and educating the second girl, if they were not forced to keep her?

They might claim that they simply could not bear to part with their own genetic child. The irony of their situation is that since they are lesbians, the girls are evidently the product of a sperm donor. As such, the lesbians can't possibly believe that biological parents matter so much to a child - or even to the parents of the child. After all, they already intentionally separated the girls from at least one of their biological parents.

Since they had the option of placing one of the girls up for adoption, the court should point out that it is simply unreasonable for them to receive funding for raising and educating the second girl.

The broader point, however, is that we are witnessing the birth of a society where parents sue because their children didn't come out as ordered. In other words, parents are now the disgruntled customers, and their children are the products.

Rather than being happy with whatever they get, parents are now demanding that their children conform to certain specifications. Back in the days of natural reproduction, parents would never have dreamed of suing each other (or God) because they got twins instead of a single baby. Each baby was a gift, even if it was a challenge.

Now, parents demand specific numbers of a specific kind of child, and they expect to have their cake and eat it too: "Two boys without the deafness gene, one girl without the cancer gene, and no down's syndrome or other disabilities, please."

If anything goes wrong, parents don't just accept it anymore as the gift of a nature that knows better than our own human limitations. They rage against the clinic for wasting their time and hurting their emotions, and leaving them with a deficient product that requires their time and money - certainly a cause for "damages."

It is a shame that while the parents may believe they have sustained "damages" due to the errors of the clinic, their attitude will likely lead to even deeper "damages" to their own children, who will inevitably perceive that they are a burden rather than a blessing to their own parents, and who will perceive that rather than being treated as beautiful and invaluable no matter what their attributes, their parents value and love them only conditionally.


Anonymous said...

Transferring 2 embryos does not even come CLOSE to having a 100% chance of giving birth to twins. That's like saying transferring 1 embryo guarantees you a healthy, happy baby in 9 months. As millions of patients and doctors can attest to, it doesn't work that way.

I have read some of your back posts and honestly, I think you are a very misinformed, poorly educated advocate for those you claim to support.

Anonymous said...

TRANSFER...not IMPLANT!!!!! REs TRANSFER embryos...they do not implant them. Nor does TRANSFERRING 2 embryos give you nearly a 100% chance for twins.

You might want to do your research on infertility treatments before you start trying to preach about how wrong they are. You are entitled to your opinion, and I respect that, but at least know what you are talking about.

Veronica Thomas said...

Thank you for your perceptive comments. Well, perhaps I did get a bit rhetorically carried away on that one, since I am indeed well aware of the high failure rate of embryo transfers - good point, so rather than saying 100% I have duly changed it to "higher percentage.

As far as using "implant" rather than "transfer" - I was indeed speaking about transfer, and did, if you notice, use that word in the first paragraph. Use of the word "implant" was a mere rhetorical shorthand, not a major cause for concern.

In any case, I have corrected the entry so you don't need to get all up in arms about these details - however, they certainly don't change the points I was making.