Friday, November 1, 2013

Maybe the Catholic Church Was Right ? Some Horrors of Reproductive Technologies

There was a short but very good article on well perhaps the horrors of assistive reproductive technologies and the business and culture that now promotes it at Public Discourse . See Modern Families and the Messes We Make - Assistive reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization not only involve serious medical risks, they also disrupt family life and commodify human beings.

This reminds me of a very good article Ross Douthat of the NYT wrote in 2011. See The Failure of Liberal Bioethics

He ends his article by stating :

 ....Needless to say, the fears that Goodman dismissed as “largely unwarranted” proved to be completely justified. (Hundreds of thousands of embryos are sitting on ice in the United States, and presumably hundreds of thousands more have been “discarded” in the years since that “one clinic” opened its doors.) But like Dr. Mark Evans with selective reduction, Goodman gradually adapted herself to exactly the kind of developments that she once suggested should be resisted. By the mid-2000s, she was enthusiastically championing embryo-destroying stem cell research, pooh-poohing the idea that “a leftover frozen embryo” had any moral status worth respecting when cures might be at stake. (At one point, Smith e-mailed her about the seeming tension between this enthusiasm and her earlier anxieties. “My lines have changed,” she wrote back.) 

 There are three broad camps in contemporary debates over bioethics. In the name of human rights and human dignity, “bio-conservatives” tend to support restricting, regulating and stigmatizing the technologies that allow us to create, manipulate and destroy embryonic life. In the name of scientific progress and human freedom, “bio-libertarians” tend to oppose any restrictions on what individuals, doctors and researchers are allowed to do. Then somewhere in between are the anguished liberals, who are uncomfortable with what they see as the absolutism of both sides, and who tend to argue that society needs to decide where to draw its bioethical lines not based on some general ideal (like “life” or “choice”), but rather case by case by case — accepting this kind of abortion but not that kind; this use of embryos but not that use; existing developments in genetic engineering but not, perhaps, the developments that await us in the future. 

The liberal camp includes many thinkers I admire, and it has produced some of the more eloquent reflections on biotechnology’s implications for human affairs. But at least in the United States, the liberal effort to (as the Goodman of 1980 put it) “monitor” and “debate” and “control” the development of reproductive technologies has been extraordinarily ineffectual. From embryo experimentation to selective reduction to the eugenic uses of abortion, liberals always promise to draw lines and then never actually manage to draw them. Like Dr. Evans, they find reasons to embrace each new technological leap while promising to resist the next one — and then time passes, science marches on, and they find reasons why the next moral compromise, too, must be accepted for the greater good, or at least tolerated in the name of privacy and choice. You can always count on them to worry, often perceptively, about hypothetical evils, potential slips down the bioethical slope. But they’re either ineffectual or accommodating once an evil actually arrives. Tomorrow, they always say — tomorrow, we’ll draw the line. But tomorrow never comes.

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