Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Wed Mar 11 2009 - 19:46:39 EDT

I agree, with this qualification: if IVF technology were such that every
embryo would be created with the intention of trying to implant it, but some
embryos would inevitably be lost in the course of trying to implant them, it
seems to me that would not be significantly morally problematic. It would
be analogous to ordinary sexual reproduction in which many fertilized eggs /
embryos are lost naturally. But, since current IVF methods inevitably
result in more embryos than there is any intention to implant, IMHO, the
current methods are ethically highly problematic. Therefore, the industry
should *at least* be regulated to eliminate or minimize excess embryos that
are never intended to be implanted.

Another interesting and troubling side effect of the current methods is the
legal propertization of embryos. A number of court cases have wrestled with
which parent has property-like rights over frozen embryos after a divorce.
Whatever your take on the "personhood" of an embryo, or on its
"potentiality," there's just something inherently troubling, isn't there,
about conceiving of human embryos as a type of personal property?

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

On Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 6:44 PM, D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>wrote:

> Let me go back to a point I tried to make earlier, but too briefly.
> Anyone who opposes abortion because the zygote is a human being must oppose
> IVF because IVF produces more embryos than can be implanted or, as noted by
> Randy, can be adopted. Octomom is not a rational response for the crowding
> is known to produce injury to the developing embryos and fetuses. This is
> different from the defects produced inadvertently by genetic problems
> in normal procreation, diseases like rubella during pregnancy, etc.
> What I have noted is that most people consider only the premises and
> consequences that support a foregone position. They do not consider non
> sequiturs and those that conflict.
> Dave (ASA)
> On Wed, 11 Mar 2009 17:19:23 -0400 David Opderbeck <>
> writes:
> Good point Randy. I agree that the embryo adoption thing is weird. The
> Christian Legal Society, a very conservative evangelical lawyers' group, did
> a feature on embryo adoption in their magazine (presenting it in a positive
> light) and it freaked me out. I recognize some inconsistency here with my
> views about embryo research perhaps, but there it is.
> The lack of regulation of the IVF industry is also scary, IMHO, because of
> eugenics. There is virtually no legal regulation of the sorts of
> characteristics that can be selected for during pre-implantation screening.
> Screening is routinely done today for gender, and embryos are culled simply
> because they are the wrong gender. Screening techniques are not currently
> so precise as to allow for designer babies, but the law is not prepared for
> advances in screening technology that seem inevitable.
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School
> Director, Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
> Regarding David's comment:
>> Having looked at adoption because of our own infertility issues (I had
>> radiation for childhood leukemia at age 7), we found the presentation of
>> Embryo Adoption positively weird. The staff at the Christian agency where
>> we sought adoption were also visibly uncomfortable with the presentation.
>> This and a recent disturbing claiming the absolute benefits of Embryo
>> Adoption lead me to conclude that the whole idea of IVF is problematci and
>> is the point at which to address the issue: David's "rogue industry in need
>> of regulation." I believe that Christians need to address the familiotary
>> or childolatry which has led us, along with others, to this point over the
>> past 30 years. Our churches need to celebrate adoption where couples
>> embrace it, recognize a special place for childless couples (like ourselves
>> for the time being), and provide holistic ministry and direction for those
>> struggling. As with so much in Christianity, I believe we need to get our
>> own house in order before we go accusing others of immoral or unethical
>> behavior.
>> Peace,
>> Randy Gabrielse
>> On Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 1:59 PM, D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
>> wrote:
>> Your responses would be acceptable if you and other evangelicals opposed
>> IVF with the same vigor as ESCR and abortion.
>> Dave (ASA)
>> On Tue, 10 Mar 2009 13:34:13 -0400 David Opderbeck <
>>> writes:
>> Responses below.
>> David W. Opderbeck
>> Associate Professor of Law
>> Seton Hall University Law School
>> Director, Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
>> On Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 12:58 PM, George Murphy <>
>> wrote:
>> 1) Why should a "precautionary principle" invoke precautions against
>> the possibility that a human person is being destroyed & not be concerned
>> with precautions against the possibility that people will continue to suffer
>> from illnesses & injuries that might be healed as a result of ESCR?
>> I never said that shouldn't also be a concern. As with the precautionary
>> principle in environmental ethics, the question is whether there is some
>> probability, even if small, that an action taken will have effects
>> significantly more deleterious than the harm the action is seeking to
>> prevent. Just about everyone will agree that it is immoral to conduct
>> medical research on human subjects involving the subject's certain death,
>> even with informed consent; and just about everyone will agree that it is
>> immoral to conduct medical research involving any significant risk of death
>> on infants, regardless of the parent's informed consent.
>> If the moral status of a human embryo is uncertain, there is some
>> probability that embryonic stem cell research will result in the great harm
>> of taking human lives for research purposes. Under the precautionary
>> principle, proponents of the research would have to show a near certainty
>> that the proposed research would succeed in producing an even more
>> substantially beneficial result -- something that cannot under any
>> estimation presently be shown.
>> 2) Of course an embryo is a potential person. A seperated ovum & sperm
>> is also a potential person. The stirring of desire in a husband & wife is a
>> potential person. How far do we take this?
>> No, a separated ovum and sperm is not a potential person. The
>> potentiality for personhood only exists when a zygote is formed. Neither an
>> ovum nor a sperm can individually mature into a person. There is a morally
>> significant, qualitative difference between a zygote and an individual ovum
>> or individual sperm.
>> Now David said previously, "I personally find destructive human embryonic
>> stem cell research morally horrifying, particularly when cell lines are
>> harvested from embryos cast off by the IVF industry." This seems strange to
>> me, suggesting as it does that research on embryos produced for IVF is worse
>> than that on embryos produced solely to be destroyed for research. It makes
>> sense only if "the IVF industry" is immoral, which may well be what David
>> means.
>> The problem here, as I see it, is that this research reinforces an
>> industry that is essentially unregulated and, in my judgment, highly morally
>> problematic.
>> But let's reflect on that a bit. One of the criticisms of IVF - & at
>> the same time the reason why it can supply ESCR, is that "spare" embryos
>> that will not be allowed to develop fully, are always produced in the
>> procedure. But the same thing in fact happens when babies are conceived in
>> the old fashioned way. We know now that a high percentage of conceptions
>> are spontaneously aborted very early in pregnancy. (I've seen estimates of
>> something like 80% but someone more knowledgeable may have a better
>> number.) So traditional conception & IVF are not wholly different in this
>> regard.
>> I don't agree. Natural miscarriages result in the context of an intent to
>> carry the baby to term. (Let's set aside for the moment the question of
>> unplanned pregnancies, which gets into additional issues about the ends of
>> sexuality, marriage, and the family). With IVF, the intent at the outset is
>> to produce embryos that will have to be destroyed. Intent is critical to
>> moral and ethical assessment of the conduct.
>> ____________________________________________________________
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Received on Wed Mar 11 19:47:20 2009

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