Bioethical Considerations of Ectogenesis and Motherless Births

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Ectogenesis frоm the Grееk ecto, “оutеr,” аnd genesis, is thе grоwth оf аn оrgаnіѕm іn an аrtіfісіаl еnvіrоnmеnt оutѕіdе the body іn which іt wоuld nоrmаllу be fоund, ѕuсh аѕ thе grоwth of аn еmbrуо оr fеtuѕ outside the mother’s bоdу, оr the growth оf bасtеrіа оutѕіdе the body оf a hоѕt.

What this mеаnѕ іѕ lіtеrаllу thе mаѕѕ production of lіfе.

You wіll no lоngеr nееd a humаn mother fоr thе creation оf a human being.

And thіѕ means уоu соuld mass-produce ѕuреr ѕоldіеrѕ for instance. Fаrthеr аlоng іt wіll lead tо thе tоtаl аnd complete manipulation оf the process of thе creation оf lіfе аltоgеthеr.


The Moral Imperative for Ectogenesis

The United Kingdom, like many other affluent Western societies, is apparently in the grip of declining fertility. The resultant strain on the economy caused by an aging population is being exacerbated by what has been characterized as the selfishness of women who delay reproduction in their efforts to secure financial and social status before getting around to starting a family.

Such women may only begin to think about having children in their mid-30s, an age that, according to research, is a predictor of serious morbidity in pregnancy and childbirth.

And for many of those who try to start families when in their 30s, their fertility may have declined so that they may not be able to have children at all or may need to resort to reproductive therapies to do so. The obvious response to this is to persuade women to reproduce earlier, regardless of the effect on their careers or other interests.

However, there is more at stake than just this. In fact, women do not necessarily have children only to fulfill their own biological desires.

Society at large may also have an interest in reproductive matters, and it is here that the difficulty emerges.

Pregnancy Is Barbaric

There has been a conceptual failure in medical and social and ethical terms to address the pathological nature of gestation and childbirth and to tackle the health problems it poses from a justice perspective.

Here, I want briefly to highlight some of the risks involved in pregnancy and childbirth.

Fear itself can raise the likelihood of their having cesarean sections due to complications arising from tension and trauma at the time of birth. Caesareans, of course, entails all the usual risks of major surgery. Despite the known dangers associated with caesareans, more and more women choose this option with all the attendant risks.

A difficult labor increases the chances of postraumatic stress syndrome, incontinence and back pain may keep women out of work or severely restrict their employment options and thus impair their financial well-being.

The final point to make here, is for expectant mothers the fact of encompassing another life in their bodies often takes a serious toll on their autonomy. Pregnant women are routinely expected to subsume their appetites and desires into those that would be in keeping with the well-being of the fetus.

A report says a man-made womb could be reality within 30 years. Credits thedailybeast

Voluntary Risk

One could, of course, argue that in these days of modern contraception, women aren’t forced to have children. It is a choice that women make. If they choose to accept the risks involved, they can have no claim to restitution.

The argument that follows is based on work by Justine Burley (Author of Genetic Revolution & Human Rights) who develops her position from Ronald Dworkin’s views on the subject of equality in healthcare distribution. Burley neatly illustrates the idea of choice and risk in an analogy that I borrow here.

Suppose two people go bungee jumping, knowing that this is a sport that entails a certain degree of risk. One of the jumpers suffers detached retinas; the other is unscathed.

Burley states that the injured bungee jumper does not have a claim to compensation because she voluntarily underwent the same risks as the other jumper.

Applicability of the Argument to Men or Surrogates

Just as some women might wish to be free of the burdens of childbirth and gestation, so some men might long to be able to experience these things. I concede that if there were men who wished to gestate and give birth, the lack of this capacity could be regarded by such men as a deficit in their personal resource holdings.

Such men, according to my argument, would also have a prima facie right to restitution. However, just as women would have to rely on other factors to advance their cause beyond a mere prima facie right, so would men in these circumstances.

There is another possibility to consider here. In fact, a woman does not always necessarily have to gestate and give birth in order to have genetically related children.

A less technologically pleasing solution is currently at hand: Surrogacy. If those women who do not wish to give birth could routinely delegate the task to those who do, the injustices been described would seemingly evaporate.

Just as a man can currently use his wife or partner as a surrogate to carry his child, rather than carrying it in his own body, so in this new arrangement, his wife or partner would also be able to avail herself of a surrogate.

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Effects on the Child

There is, of course, a fundamental ethical consideration to be addressed in relation to the question of ectogenesis. What effect would it have on the child?

It might be argued that “to-children” would lack some essential bond with their mothers that other children have.

At the very least, it would seem extremely technically demanding to ensure that an artificial womb provided all the nutrients necessary for the wellbeing of the child, and what about the effect on the mother/child relationship?

Surely this would be fractured by the removal of the physical bond between them. With regard to the safety of ectogenesis, I assume for the purpose of this argument that sufficient research would need to be carried out to establish this.

However, the difficulties of mother/child bonding still remain. I want to make one point in response to this possible obstacle.

Those who suppose that the mother’s bond is entirely dependent on her physical gestation of her child do a huge disservice to all the step- and adoptive parents who love their children dearly.

Arguing for Prioritization

To return to the argument in favor of ectogenesis, I have suggested that there are prima facie grounds for women to be relieved of the natural inequalities involved in reproduction and have attempted to deal briefly with some of the more obvious objections to this claim. In this final section, I want to address the major difficulty, where to locate ectogenesis in a competing hierarchy of claims for state assistance.

As suggested by the Dworkin/Burley model, a version of the veil of ignorance is required, in which individuals make decisions based on their preferences and their judgments of the likelihood of being afflicted by certain disorders, and the aggregate of these choices receives priority in funding.

We should emphasize the fact that Dworkin’s approach does not require that anything be objectively definable as a disease, disability, or disorder, so the fact that gestation and childbirth are “natural” for women is not in itself an argument against their appearance in the list of contenders for restitution.

Read also Human Embryo Genome Editing – CRISPR

Sources: annasmajdor

Feature Image: world future fund

Giannis Sore

Giannis Sore

Giannis is an IT enginner from Athens.
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