Right to Life’s submission to ACART on Posthumous Reproduction is reproduced below.
The Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ACART) has been established to formulate policy and advice specific to New Zealand within this controversial field.
Recently ACART called for public feedback on
Posthumous Reproduction consultation
ACART stated that….
We are seeking public feedback on significant policy issues about whether and in what circumstances posthumous reproduction is acceptable. This consultation also raises important ethical questions about the retrieval and use of gametes from a person who is no longer able to consent. We also raise issues about who should be able to authorise the retrieval and use of gametes, and how any regulatory mechanism might operate.
The closing date for feedback has been extended to 14 September 2018, to allow key stakeholders to submit their thoughts following the sector consultation.
From ACART’s Website….
Read the consultation document and find out how to have your say at Posthumous Reproduction: A review of the current Guidelines for the Storage, Use, and Disposal of Sperm from a Deceased Man to take into account gametes and embryos.
In response to this Right to Life have made the following Submission
3rd September 2018
POSTHUMOUS ASSISTED REPRODUCTION
Posthumous assisted reproduction (PAR) is deeply problematic, both at an ethical and practical level. We will begin with three reasons why PAR is problematic and then outline why the arguments in favour of it do not stand up to scrutiny. So why is posthumous reproduction a serious problem for society?
It is our contention that in considering this issue that we give recognition to our Creator’s plan for pro-creation. PAR is a violation of God’s plan for procreation. God’s plan is self – evident and it is that the creation of new life takes place when the sperm of the father fertilisers the ovum of the mother in an act of pro-creation that is open to life within a traditional marriage of exclusively one woman and one man. In pro-creation our Creator invites the man and the woman to join with Him in creating a new unique human being who is an unrepeatable miracle of God’s creation.
When man loses sight of his dignity and place in God’s plan for procreation there is an increasing danger that man will challenge God’s will and will seek to impose his will claiming that it is his body and that it is his right to choose by embracing immoral practices that offend God and violate the human rights of the child.
Firstly, in the overwhelming number of cases, no independent evidence exists that the deceased person would provide consent to such an action being taken, and in such cases, society should err on the side of caution as this is erring on the side of respect for the dead. It is for this reason that respected professional bodies such as the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine agree that posthumous sperm conception should only occur where there is written consent from the deceased man. This may, temporarily, make matters difficult for the spouse or partner left behind but it is “the ethically most defensible position based on the presumed rights of the dead or dying patient” (Orr & Siegler, 2002, p. 301).
Secondly, in most cultures, the body of a deceased person should be treated with the utmost respect. Both Western and Maori culture has a long tradition of having a high regard for the way people are treated after their death and in principle consider it disrespectful to use the body of the deceased in a way that was never intended. Just because something is now possible, does not mean it should be practiced. Different countries have different approaches to posthumous reproduction legally. There are outright bans in France, Germany, Sweden and Canada for instance (Bahadur,2002), whereas in the United Kingdom, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act requires explicit written consent.
Thirdly and most importantly, why posthumous reproduction is problematic is that it is not in the best interests of the child. It deprives the child of any possibility of a relationship with at least one parent, and we know from numerous studies that children from single-parent families have increased rates of promiscuity, teenage pregnancy, imprisonment, poorer educational outcomes, substance abuse and so on (Waldfogel, Craigie & Brooks-Gunn, 2010; Amato, 2005; Krein & Beller, 1988, McLanahan & Sandefur, 1987). This is not in dispute. Moreover, a child has a right to have at least the possibility of access to both biological parents. At times this does not occur, where for instance one parent dies in an accident after the child is conceived but posthumous sperm retrieval results in fatherlessness by design. We should not intentionally be having children who have no possibility of ever knowing their father.
Now let us consider the arguments in favour of posthumous reproduction. One argument is that sperm retrieval is less intrusive than an autopsy or organ retrieval and donation. However, there is a qualitative difference that makes PAR problematic in a way autopsy or organ retrieval is not (Orr & Siegler, 2002). As Orr and Siegler (2002) point out, in the case of an autopsy and organ donation, family are agreeing to a procedure based on altruistic motives, not requesting something that is benefitting themselves. In short, family are giving, as opposed to taking. These procedures benefit others, whereas PAR is all about the family’s own desires, which may well contradict the wishes of the deceased.
Another argument in favour of posthumous reproduction is that once a person is dead, he or she no longer has a meaningful interest in the people they leave behind (Delaney and Hershenov, 2009; Kelton and Savulescu, 2016). This argument is based on a blatant disregard for the wishes of the deceased, but more importantly it is simply not true. Our society does and should respect the wishes of the deceased, as one can see from the way we acknowledge and a respect wills and other legal documents that outline and respect a deceased person’s wishes. To say otherwise, is intellectually dishonest, as this is a practice that has endured for centuries.
While a surviving spouse may be desperate to preserve something from a deceased loved one, the medical profession enabling this is deeply problematic. Grief impairs one’s decision making, and it is likely not clear to the remaining spouse the implications of what they want at that particular time. What he or she needs instead, is the support of family and friends, and if necessary professional counselling. Children are a long-term commitment and seeing them as a way of countering grief is an affront to their intrinsic value and dignity. Furthermore, no society should consider the single parent family as the ideal. All the empirical data emphatically states that children do much, much better with both a mother and a father, and the wellbeing of children should be a priority, especially at a time when governments in the West are having to deal with the effects of the breakdown of the traditional family.
List of References
Amato, P. (2005). The Impact of Family Formation Change on the Well-Being of the Next Generation. Future of Children, 15(2), 75–96.
Delaney, J., & Hershenov, D.B. (2009). Why consent may not be needed for organ procurement. American Journal of Bioethics, 9 (8), 3-10.
Krein, S.F. & Beller, A.H. Demography (1988) 25: 221. https://doi.org/10.2307/2061290.
McLanahan, S. & Sandefur, G. (1987). Growing up with a single parent: what hurts, what helps. Harvard University Press.
Orr, R. D., & Siegler, M. (2002). Is posthumous semen retrieval ethically permissible? Journal of Medical Ethics, 28 (5), 299-302.
Kelton, T., & Savulescu, (2016). J. Posthumous conception by presumed consent. A pragmatic position for a rare but ethically challenging dilemma. Reproductive Biomedicine & Society Online, 3, 26-29.
Bahadur, G. (2002). Death and conception, Human Reproduction, Oct 2002;17(10):2769–2775.
Waldfogel, J., Craigie, T.-A., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2010). Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing. The Future of Children / Center for the Future of Children, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 20(2), 87–112.