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Abortion of surrogate fetus with DS sparks ethics debate

October 14th, 2010

Doctor says Canadian bio-parents demanded termination; Surrogate mom refused, then relented

‘Should the rules of commerce apply to the creation of children?’

From the Vancouver Sun, [UK] Daily Mail:

A Canadian surrogate mother reluctantly terminated her pregnancy at the insistence of the fetus’ biological parents after it was learned that the fetus had an elevated risk of Down syndrome, a Vancouver-area doctor revealed at a recent fertility medicine conference.

The case, in which the surrogate mother initially resisted the abortion and later relented, has sparked a spirited ethical debate over legal oversight of surrogacy arrangements.

Dr. Ken Seethram of the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine in suburban Vancouver said the surrogate had signed a contract with the biological parents that would have absolved the couple of all financial responsibility for raising the child. He did not disclose the identities of the parties, but said the case had occurred within the past year and involved an embryo that had been created with the parents’ egg and sperm.

A bioethicist who has studied the issue extensively argues that contract law should not apply to the transaction, unless human life is to be treated like widgets in a factory.

“Should the rules of commerce apply to the creation of children? No, because children get hurt,” said Juliet Guichon of the University of Calgary. “It’s kind of like stopping the production line: ‘Oh, oh, there’s a flaw.’ It makes sense in a production scenario, but in reproduction it’s a lot more problematic.”

Related editorial in the Calgary [Alberta] Herald: ‘Vital debate needed on surrogacy and other IVF issues’

An excerpt:

It could be argued that the terms of the contract need to be spelled out clearly be-fore the surrogacy gets underway, but then that lends the resulting infant the status of a manufactured good — and nobody should be comfortable placing a human being on such a level.

… What needs to be kept uppermost in mind while sorting through the moral and ethical ramifications of the complex scenarios in vitro fertilization has engendered, is that a human being — not a commodity or product — is the subject matter.

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