Thinking Out Loud

April 27, 2013

A Couple’s Moral Responsibility to Frozen Embryos

Filed under: ethics, marriage, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:12 am

Christian Biomedical Ethics

Yikes! The world of biomedical ethics is complicated, but even more so when overlaid with a Christian worldview.  Take this question submitted to Russell D. Moore’s blog, Moore To The Point:

Dear Dr. Moore,

I know you don’t believe in in vitro fertilization, but my wife and I found it was a good solution to our infertility problem. We created multiple embryos, and carried two to term. We cannot afford any other children, so another round of pregnancies is not an option. Our quiver’s full. My conscience is bothering me a little, though, since we banked a number of other fertilized embryos, just in case the first round didn’t take. Do we have any responsibility for these embryos?

Sincerely,

A Stressed Dad

Okay, so if you haven’t read the column or haven’t peeked below, which way do you think he’s going to go on this?  Or, being perfectly honest, what the answer you would like to see, or the answer you would give if anyone asked you?

Time’s up!  Here’s a little bit of his answer, but clicking the link in the first paragraph here is highly recommended:

Dear Stressed,

Your quiver’s fuller than you think…

…In a Christian vision of reality there is no such thing as an “almost person,” which is what we think with the abstraction of “fertilized embryos.” Someone is either a human person, and therefore my neighbor, or not. You do not have “frozen embryos.” You have children, frozen in this cruelly clinical world of suspended animation.

It is one thing to decide you can’t afford to have children, before you conceive children, just as it is one thing to decide you can’t afford to marry, before you marry. You’re married though, and you’ve conceived children. You have an obligation to them. The one who does not care for his own household is, the Apostle Paul says, “worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

This doesn’t mean your game-plan is easy. There’s a cross to take up here. The path from frozen storage to birth is difficult, whether through bearing those children or making an adoption plan for them into loving families. But these are not things; these are persons, worthy of love and respect and sacrifice…

Any surprise or shock I had at his answer stemmed not from fundamental disagreement but from entering a world of consideration that was completely foreign to me.  A few days ago, I had no opinion on this issue.  Today, I see a couple in a particular situation who have sought advice that may not necessarily be the advice they want to hear. Despite this, I still find myself torn.

I want to look the couple in the eye and say, “I see your pain and struggle with this.” Then I want to look Dr. Moore in the eye and say, “That was a very wise answer.” In other words, “I agree with you and (turning my head) I agree with you.” It’s a great stance if you’re going into politics, but I’m not sure how it plays out in the world of faith and ethics.

Rather, there is the feeling of being confronted with an issue that is beyond yourself, something you feel you lack capacity to assess. Where is Solomon when you need him? I suppose that’s the role that Dr. Moore is being asked to play here.

He concludes by linking alluding to a familiar scripture passage,

Your conscience might seem to be a nuisance to you… But a nagging conscience can be a sign of grace. It might be that what you are hearing is a happy foretaste of obedience to Christ, as you hear his voice saying, “I was frozen and you remembered me.”

What do you think?

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4 Comments »

  1. I agree with Dr Moore.
    I have been in two minds about IVF. I welcome most efforts that help a childless couple to have a baby, especially since adoption is an almost impossibility. The murder of unborn children means there are none available for adoption.

    Life begins at conception. Therefore, any IVF procedure which involves ‘disposing of frozen embryos’ (read killing unborn babies) must be rejected. If IVF can be carried out without this possibility – that is, only one egg is fertilised and used – then I am 100%+ in favour.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — April 28, 2013 @ 11:35 pm

    • I really thought this topic would bring out a lot of responses. I’m not sure if it’s the complexity of the issue, or that it was posted on a Saturday that slowed comments, but it is definitely one of those ‘stretching’ social issues for Christians to wrestle with.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 28, 2013 @ 11:40 pm

      • I think it is mainly because it is such an ‘unpopular’ topic. Apart from the joy and blessings of a childless couple being able to become parents, people don’t want to think about the other side of the coin.

        Comment by meetingintheclouds — April 29, 2013 @ 8:07 pm

  2. I agree with Dr. Moore as well.

    We struggled with this very topic a few years ago – we were going through fertility treatments because of PCOS but stopped short of IVF as we were not comfortable with the implications, and I was worried that even if we told the doctors that we only wanted one egg fertilized and implanted, that they may ignore our requests and not tell us, or make a mistake and fertilize more than one egg by accident. We tried for a baby for a year, then went through the treatments for around 2 years before stopping to take a break. At that point we fell pregnant with our first son, and 2 years later we now have 2 boys.

    Comment by Jack — May 27, 2013 @ 1:16 pm


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