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The value of a First World life – Familial Gamete Donation

On the fundamental level gamete donation seems to be a wonderful thing. Giving children to those who are unable to conceive naturally. However the more thought I devote to the reality of sperm and egg donation, the more complex ethical issues arise in my head.

As a human, we want to be able to pass our on genetic traits onto our offspring. Parents want to see a ‘little me’ running around the backyard. They want to create copies of themselves that they can relate to. Basically, I want to see my eyes and nose passed onto my daughter.

Twins_280909It is for this reason that the consideration of using familial gametes has surfaced. In layman’s terms, using your brother as sperm donor for your wife, in order to ensure that your offspring will share the closest genetic resemblance with yourself. (Provided the donation is brother to brother.)

In recent weeks, I have taken this topic to discussion with my friends. I have found thus far that most women would donate an egg to their sister, with many more likely to provide donation if the donor had already bore children themselves. Men on the other hand tend to view their sperm as their property and donating to their brother is simply unacceptable. Both the men and women interviewed here express concern for how ‘they’ would feel as the biological parent. Only one male considered the impact of giving your brother the most important gift of his life.

What concerns me here is that suddenly we put a value on sperm/eggs if they are used for a reason other than going in a bin. How many men have given women sperm ‘free of charge’ without further thought?

envyIn the case of women donating to their sisters, many felt that they would feel a sense of missing out on the child, if in fact they never had their own. A selfish/jealous relationship would ensue if in fact a child were brought into this environment. (It is important to note here, I am not judging the responses from my friends, I am merely assessing them critically and primarily.)

The males see themselves proud and worthy owners of their sperm. That they could not give a part of themselves to their brother, but they are happy to give a part of themselves to the next female who walks in the door. More interestingly a gay male was happy to donate to his female best friend so that she could rear a child but not to his said brother. The common link here was that many men felt proud and define themselves by their ability to ejaculate. Moreover the concept of asking their brother for sperm to start their family is an insult to their own penis.

sistersIt is worth noting that in the complexity of the fertilization lies the intricacy of prior family relationships. A woman who tried unsuccessfully to donate eggs to her sister stated that she would be prepared to donate for this particular sister, as it meant the world to her and that they are close. But on the other hand, she would not be so accommodating to her other sister.

Both men and women interviewed feel that they would have some sort of biological responsibility to that child and would be unsure how they would react to adverse parenting decisions by their siblings.  All parties except one reflected on their feelings as the donor and not the desperate couple trying to conceive. Is this because I spoke primarily to a generation of people who are deemed self-centered?

But what represents a parent? Is it because we have a biological association or is it because we rear the child?

father-daughterSperm donation by a genetic father or an unspecified party does not constitute a ‘father’. We view a father as a person who has a responsibility for a child; to protect, to provide and to care. Many times in my teaching career, I hear about so-called fathers who have made no real effort to be a ‘real father’. The same goes for the mothers of these lost children.

In the case of adoption, parents are not genetically related to the child, however the child is still the legal responsibility of the parents who adopt them. That adoptive parenangelina-jolie-and-brad-pitt-family-in-new-orleansts can love a child as much as if it was biologically theirs, although physically they might be races apart. In the case of Brad and Angelia Jolie, they have three adopted children and three biological children. As the adopted children spawning from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam bare no resemblance to their parents or even each other, do you think they would feel any less apart of the Jolie-Pitt family?

I pose the question, would you feel less attached to your nieces or nephews if for a horrible reason they found there way into your custody? I would argue that these children would become just as a part of your family as your own biological children. And that over the years you would see no boundaries between these children and your own. So why is it so intrinsically different to providing gametes to a sibling?

What about the potential effect on the children? Do you tell them or not?  “Knowledge of the actual genetic relationships among the participants could contribute to a profoundly altered view of identity and family relationships.”(1) Again, how is this so different from an outside gamete fertilization or an adoption? In all three cases, the child would produce symptoms of a non-traditional identity establishment. Many argue that informing your children of their adoption early on helps the child to adjust to the situation whilst their emotional development is still being formulated. This saves the emotional turmoil that a child might undergo if they stumble upon adoption papers in the future. But how to you explain to a five year old that their daddy isn’t their real daddy, that their uncle is their real daddy, but the uncle is not married to mummy, and mummy and daddy love each other? I am finding it hard to explain myself.

mod-famOne further expansion of the issue, is in the case of gay couples. If a lesbian couple used the brother of one of the female partners to produce a child with a genetic relationship to both of the females, is that wrong?

The Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine argues that
“Familial gamete donation ensures that some portion of the infertile person’s genes will be passed to the offspring, thus maintaining a kinship tie that would be lost if an unrelated donor were used. In one of the few reports about known sperm donors, family involvement was chosen so that the infertile male could feel a ‘‘genetic closeness’’ to his child.” (2)

sb10065029ba-002So in the case of the gay couples, if the gamete was not a familial gamete that one partner would feel a disassociation to the offspring, if in fact the other was the genetic parent. Furthermore, if the genetic parent became deceased, then the partner of the genetic parent may not have legal guardianship of the child and the child might be removed from the homosexual parenthood and placed elsewhere.  As we begin evolve in the rights of homosexual unions, we have still not directly addressed the issue of step-parenthood/parenthood of homosexual couples. It could also be likely that the genetic donor could request for guardianship of the child. Ultimately leaving the non-genetic homosexual partner with no legal rights or responsibilities over the child they have reared.

In the TV Drama Brothers and Sisters, it addresses a similar scenario, where a gay brother and the second brother donated their sperm to a third brother and their wife. The idea being that neither brother would know who fathered the child. However, as dramas are dramatized and worst case scenarios are always played out, it turned out that they found out that it was the gay brother’s sperm which fertilized his sister in law’s egg. Thus proving only that the concept of familial gamete donation is a very real scenario within the medical world.

Of course there are a variety of different familial gamete donations that can be explored, such as father to son, mother to daughter etc. However for the purpose of this piece I have only focused on sibling-to-sibling donations. The Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine also addresses in part sister to brother donation and the consequence of incest in particular cases.

evolution-1hzzvneThe entire argument can not be fully justified without mentioning the Social Darwinist theory of Evolution. Survival of the fittest in this context would point to the assumption that people who can not biologically bear children should not. If it was meant to be it would. Should people have the power to overrule nature?

IVF egg pickIVF practices seem to deny the foundations of this theory and provide those who are not meant to conceive naturally, fertilized embryos to be placed within their uterus. Thus allowing infertile couples the ability to foster life. It is also important to address that IVF is not always successful and many couples are left with holes in their pocket and gaps in their hearts. The argument here is that technology has allowed us on occasion to defy nature and create a population of IVF babies. Do people have the right to play god?

throwing out the trashIn conclusion, I cannot move forward of the point that we give to value to gametes only when they create a fetus, yet we throw thousands in the trash each day. It’s no different to wanting the toy your brother is playing with only because he is playing with it.

I would like to think that on the basis of wanting to give my sister the best present one could ever give, I would donate my eggs, before or after children. After all, if I don’t use them they will most likely end up in a sanitary bin.

~Mango
“Bear the gift of life.”

References:

(1) & (2) The Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine:
www.asrm.org/EthicsReports/ or view the document below –
Using family members as gameteopl donors or surrogates

(3) http://www.theafa.org/article/using-a-known-sperm-donor-understanding-the-legal-risks-and-challenges/


1 Comment

Let’s get married.

Nothing infuriates me more than restricting people for making decisions in their own lives. Or what’s worse when other people try to tell another what they can and can’t do.

I pride myself by being in control of my own decisions. I’m not willing to be told what to do by anyone and within this I am capable of accepting responsibility for my actions. But this only scratches the surface of what is bothering me.

The whole Gay Marriage debate. How is it even a debate? What are we debating?

As a society we recognize a Gay couple as a partnership but we don’t allow them to marry, share names, have children, have rights to custody and combined wealth? Are we ridiculous?

Why is being Gay viewed as being wrong? Ancient Greeks living in 700BC allowed for men to become mentors to younger males in the society. More commonly referred to as Pederasty this included various sexual acts and teachings. How the hell have we gone 2712 years from then and we banish homosexual relations?

What happened in between those 2712 years between? We can attribute it to religion as we know it. The end of polytheism and the movement towards monotheism. And it didn’t stop there.

Some Roman Emperor in order to gain total power of the church and the Roman Empire, decided to put together a book.

Constantine the Great and the Council of Nicaea created the bible as a compilation of his chosen chapters into a collection of works some 300 years after the death of Christ. (1) It did not represent one female voice. (Don’t get me started on that.) His little ‘Booky Wooky’ aimed to represent both the Pagans and the Christians whilst giving him the new title of The Holy Roman Emperor. Brilliant, world domination in the hands of one man. – It’s funny how history repeats itself. (Can be seen again in the 1930’s with Hilter’s attempted revival of the Holy Roman Empire.)

I view religion as ‘old form government’, and thus explaining the dynamic shift from secular beliefs to atheism. But now that government and the police exist why do we need religion?

Essentially we don’t. The Ten Commandments are scattered throughout modern day law. So we don’t need to rely on the Church to provide us meaningful insight into the rights and the wrongs. No longer do we fear excommunication.

Bring forth this new world, one of moral consciousness and all out prudish ways. If you’re not the family with the white picket fence and the 2.5 kids then forget it. You have no place in society.

“Using individual and ambiguous biblical passages as a basis for threatening people with eternal damnation leads to a kid of scriptural positivism, which may turn out to be a matter of the cruel abuse of religious power.”Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: A Historical Perspective – Martti Nissinen (2004) – Well said Nissinen!!

I believe no Gay person wakes up one day and decides to CHOOSE a life of prejudice and exclusions. We are born gay, and moreover I believe everyone sits on a scale. That you’re never 100% straight or gay.

The institution of marriage is a development by the Church in order to unite a ‘presumably loving couple’ for life. Many gays do not want a marriage as such but a civil union. To be recognized as a unit, just like the rest of us.

So how many of you homophobics out there will be actually be affected by a Gay Marriage? None. It’s really none of your business. So why worry about it?

Unsubstantiated claims made by a ridiculous Liberal Senator of late, that Gay Marriage will lead to Bestiality is horrendous! Because the last time I checked, Gays had to be humans of the same sex! Gay Marriage will not lead to the marriage between animals and humans.

Maybe this ill-fated loose tongued politician would be best suited to Denmark where it is not against the law to engage in sexual relations with an animal. He might have a better case. (2)

Moreover this is the 21st Century. We have previously abolished slavery in 1833, we have given Australian women the vote in 1902. And American elected it’s first black president in 2008. It is about time that we let this one go.

Alas, religion followers out there. You shall not be hurt by this decision. It will not make you any more or less ‘entitled’. Ultimately and realistically it will not change anything!

Let’s focus on more pressing issues like Global Warming and Carbon Tax… Because Jesus we always need more tax.

~Mango

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References:

1) Further references to the Council of Nicaea and Constantine the Great-  http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/nicaea.html

2) An example of current day protests against Zoophilia/Bestiality – http://legalaction4animalrights.net/2012/09/01/petition-prohibit-animal-sex-in-denmark/

*****It is worth noting that my religious beliefs are impartial to any religion. Just ‘religion as power’. I am a baptized Christian who is now an atheist and believer in solid historical evidence, hence why I can not believe a book written by man. I reject oppression of any kind, but I accept those who chose to believe in a higher power. I accept anyone. It’s part of what that makes me so angry with prejudice in the first place as “it is a sin to kill a mockingbird.” I believe if it doesn’t effect you personally then why worry about it?