A few months ago, New Scientist revealed that a baby was born earlier this year using a newly developed technique which used DNA from three people, allowing parents with rare genetic mutations to have (allegedly) healthy babies. The science itself is fascinating, of course, as science often is; another testimony to the creative genius of fallen man. I won’t summarize the article here as it is short and easy to understand, but will rather point out a couple of ironies.
Leaving aside the immoral act of IVF, the Jordanian couple who underwent the procedure couldn’t use the method approved in the UK called pronuclear transfer because it involves destroying an embryo, and as Muslims, they were opposed to that. Yet without a whiff of self-awareness, the article goes on to point out that in this “revolutionary” new technique called spindle nuclear transfer, five embryos were created, only one of which developed normally and was implanted. Whether the other four died and were discarded, or were intentionally destroyed is of course not mentioned, nor how the Muslim couple justified their opposition to killing embryos in the first technique but not the second (I am assuming that even if all five embryos had been healthy that she was not planning to bear quintuplets). How a so-called bioethics expert reviewing the procedure called it “ethical” and stated that “the team avoided destroying embryos” is also unclear. Regardless, we are left with this – a doctor uses an experimental technique to radically alter human conception, which he did in Mexico specifically because, as he stated, “there are no rules.” In the course of this experimentation he creates four damaged human embryos, that subsequently die. Further, he goes on to note that although the surviving baby seems healthy, we don’t know if it will last, and that we need to do more of these experiments on babies and see what happens to be sure. Yes, this man is indeed a 21st century ethical giant. And don’t worry if you somehow missed his noble character while contemplating his radical experimentation on human embryos in a country without rules. He says himself that “To save lives is the ethical thing to do.” No mention of how many takes he needed to get that out with a straight face. Because by any count he didn’t save a single life; he helped to create five, of whom 80% died. Seems that the net is actually four lives taken.
It is not hard to think through the many more actual and potential moral problems with this technology. Suffice it to say that it is rooted in the age old problem of human selfishness. The couple going to any length to bear a child, even at the expense of other dead children is a problem rooted in selfishness. Never understood it personally – my genes aren’t that special, and the world is awash (sadly) in babies needing adoptive homes. Interestingly though, it’s the same root problem as the other extreme of disordered parental response to childbearing, that of abortion. To live virtuously is usually to hold to a center point between vices at opposite extremes – to stray too far in either direction is dangerous.