20 February 2006

Medicine In A Land Of Plenty.

In a land of plenty, medical science is used in odd ways:

A 62-year-old woman gave birth Friday . . . .

Janise Wulf gave birth to her 12th child. She is also a grandmother of 20 and a great-grandmother of three. . . .

Wulf and her third husband, Scott, 48, named the red-haired boy Adam Charles Wulf. He follows just 3 1/2 years behind his older brother, Ian.

"I hate to raise one alone, without a sibling," said Wulf, who was impregnated both times through in vitro fertilization.

Using in vitro fertilization to have a twelth child at age 62 is not unethical, although it is certainly odd and is fairly described as "unnatural". Certainly, no health care system designed to prioritize need would put the desires of a 62 year old mother of eleven, grandmother of 20 and great-grandmother of three, to have another child with a third spouse high on its list of necessities. But, it doesn't hurt me and I'm fine with it. I don't hear a lot of complaints from the religious right or the Catholic Church about people trying to have more children either (although some are made that multiple eggs may need to be fertilized for one to "take" in in vitro fertilization).

But, if we live in a land of plenty where medical resources are so abundant, shouldn't we be able to find some way to fund the medical needs of working class children who have already been born? Ironically, their medical fates are even more perilous than those of children who are actually in poverty, for whom Medicaid is available.

I also have trouble seeing why this procedure is any less ethical than human cloning for reproductive purposes, which so many politicians (including President Bush in the State of the Union address) condemn. Certainly, human cloning is odd and unnatural. Perhaps, given current technology, there may even be too many risks associated with it. I'm not an expert in that field. But, why it is inherently less ethical to engage in human cloning for reproduction, than it is to have your twelth child at age 62 by in vitro fertilization? If it was ethical for me to be born the first time, why is it less ethical for someone to be born a second time with the same genes? The reasons stated for urging a ban are questionable. One of Bush's scientific advisors who made a recommendation for a ban on human reproductive cloning gave this as their reasons:

The volatile issue has been debated again and again, and the president's own largely conservative Bioethics Council (of which I am a member) in 2002 made a big distinction between the two forms of cloning. We voted unanimously to ban reproductive cloning — the kind of cloning that seeks to replicate a human being. We cited many reasons, from biomedical risk to religious concerns to the flat-out weirdness of the idea.

If weirdness is a basis for bioetehics, then newborn Adam Charles Wulf is unethical to the max. But, I don't recall any of my philosophy major friends ever talking about the weirdness principal in their ethics classes.

The only time I can recall human cloning being mentioned in the Bible it was endorsed by the Big Guy himself in the Book of Genesis, shared by Christians and Jews:

2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
2:22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

The Korean in Surah 4 (Women) in the first verse, concurs, although less graphically.

The Christian New Testament also represents a strong endorsement from the Big Guy of unconventional impregnation. See Matthew 1:16-25 and Luke 1:26-35, as well as Surah 14 (Mary) of the Koran. Incidentally, the Big Guy is also a great fan of elderly pregnancy. See, e.g., Genesis 18:11-14, Luke 1:5-24, 36, 40-41.

Then again, I'm not really sure that religious texts are a very good basis for making medical decisions, given their strong focus on remedies such as casting out demons and touching Saints or their stuff. See, e.g., Matthew 10:1, Luke 9:39, 11:14, 13:11-16, Acts 5:15-16, 10:38, 19:12.

I recognize the question of biomedical risk, but if anything, human reproductive cloning is inherently less problematic than theraputic cloning.

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