Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dispatches from the Brave New World

British Couple Pay for Off-the-Shelf designer Baby
A British woman will be impregnated with a "designer baby" in the next few months, it has been revealed.

She will be the first British woman to undergo treatment at a U.S. embryo bank that allows would-be parents to select their child's characteristics over the Internet.

Customers can choose egg and sperm donors after seeing pictures of them and receiving details of their medical history, education and family background.

The woman and her husband, both in their 40s, paid around £9,000 for the service.

An embyro fitting the woman's requirements will be created over the next fortnight and she will fly out later in the year to have it implanted.

[…] The embryo bank is run by the Abraham Centre of Life, based in San Antonio, Texas.

[…] Late last year, the centre carried out its first two procedures, on a woman from Canada and a single mother from California. Both are now five months' pregnant.

[…] The centre allows couples to buy embryos which have no biological link to either of them.

It boasts that all sperm donors are college graduates, many of them to doctorate level, while egg donors are in their 20s and are mostly graduates.

The full service costs between $14,000 and $18,000 (between £7,100 and £9,100), according to the company's website.

Isn’t “buying embryos which have no biological link” trafficking in human beings? Excuse me, but if one can literally purchase an unrelated child, then I believe my beloved homeland has just reintroduced the practice of slavery. I am embarrassed that this clinic is in Texas. It’s not as if it were located in Boston or San Francisco; you would expect the people in San Antone to know better.

What happens if the child doesn’t turn out as desired? Most of the traits mentioned – looks, intelligence, and health – are governed by a whole slue of poorly-understood different genes, as well as by developmental factors. There’s no genetic guarantee the kid won’t turn out ugly, dumb, and sickly. Besides, the use to which “superior” traits are put is largely a matter of upbringing; it is perfectly possible for a person to be a smart, healthy, good-looking rapist or murderer. If your designer kid starts shooting heroin, flunks out of college, and ends up in a shootout with the police, do you get to sue the company for malfeasance?

Israeli Family to beget Grandchildren from Dead Soldier’s Sperm
Rachel Cohen was praying at her son’s grave when a call on her mobile phone brought news that she had been awaiting for four years. An Israeli court had cleared the way for her to become a grandmother.

The legal decision is unprecedented because her son, Keivin, who was shot dead by a sniper in Gaza in 2002, never knew the woman who will become the mother of his child. She was selected by a family charity and Private Cohen’s family.

A sample of the 20-year-old soldier’s sperm was taken after his death. His parents, who left Iran for Israel when Keivin was 5, petitioned a family court in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, “to fulfil his desire to start a family” even though Private Cohen had never made an official request for such a judicial step.

[…] Mrs Cohen said that she was guided in her decision by her dead son. “An hour after being told he had been killed I took his picture and started talking to him. I asked him, ‘Where are all the children you wanted?’ then looked at the picture and heard him saying, ‘Mum, it’s not too late. There is something you can take from me’.

“Then it came to me — ‘Your sperm, that’s what you want me to take from you’. Right there, I asked the officers who came to visit to make sure his sperm be kept.”

The family was assisted in its campaign by New Family, an Israeli NGO that described the ruling as a dramatic development for those who wish to make a “biological will”. A year later the family approached the medical sperm bank seeking permission to use it for insemination. When the request was turned down New Family began a legal action that concluded successfully for the family this week. There was a problem for a while in that the Attorney-General said that the only person who could ask permission for this was a spouse. Private Cohen wasn’t married and he had not prepared a biological will, but the family had testimony, including video recordings, in which he expressed his desire to have children.

Irit Rosenblum, of New Family, said: “The parents felt it was their mission to fulfill his wish. They had to go through psychological tests and then the next hurdle was to find a mother. It took a year and a half but we found one.

“There is a legally drafted contract between the mother and Keivin’s parents guaranteeing that their only responsibility is to be the grandparents of the child when he or she is born.”

I have great sympathy for the family, with their son being gunned down by some Islamic "hero," but something is badly twisted here. They found an unmarried (I presume) woman to bear the son’s child, and then have the chutzpah to make sure they have no more legal responsibilities for the kid than to “be grandparents.” It has been said many times that the nice part of being Grandma and Grandpa is that you get to have a good time with the grandkids, then give them back to Mom and Dad when the diaper needs changing or the tantrum starts. They can get what they want, and – should problems arise – they can just walk away. Whatever people’s conscious intent in the matter, there is something ugly here, disguised as love.