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Why Adoption of Frozen Human Embryos Could Be Acceptable

9/1/2003 - 9:50 PM PST

(Page 3 of 5)

themselves there is no good at all, except for their existence itself; the evil, which is great and grave, has already been done.

But of all the options, the least evil is the one that intends to repair the evil caused, which can give them a worthy start, and which is most in agreement with openness to love.

Q: Could the "spare" embryo be considered as a "donor" of its own cells and so be used for research?

A: The embryo, whether "spare" or normal, is a human person. The moral criterion that governs donation is the same as for any other person.

Obviously, if it is alive, it cannot be killed so that it can become a donor, and if it is dead, its biological remains can be used with the same criteria applied to the mortal remains of any adult person.

The ethical criteria for donation are clear: 1) respect for the life of the donor and the recipient; 2) safeguarding of the personal identity of the recipient and of his descendents; 3) informed consent; 4) total gratuity, no commercialization, and a just allocation.

Q: Would not the adoption of embryos favor those who defend the practice of their freezing, given that the objection would be removed that such embryos would be destined to die? It would also open the door to the cession of embryos, giving way to another form of heterologous procreation ...

A: The one who is not well intentioned will always find justification for his unjust acts. But good must not be left undone for this reason.

A clear distinction must be made among the three types of acts implied here: Cryopreservation is, in itself, an illicit act; abandonment by the natural parents is another act, different from the previous one, but also illicit; adoption by adoptive parents is another act that is different from the previous two and licit in itself.

What must be done is to define well the terms of the moral justness of prenatal adoption, since the objective end, when it is proposed as a solution, is not justification of the evil, but the absolute opposite: One always begins from the premise that the door must be closed to the production of "spare" embryos. It is also proposed that it be strictly regulated.

In this point also, although in a very limited way, the proposal of the Spanish government is a step forward in relation to the present situation of total chaos.

Moreover, cryopreservation cannot have a solid argument here to sustain itself, as it is evil, not only because it "destines" embryos "to death," but because it is evil in itself as it illicitly puts on hold the development of a personal life.

Neither does it seem that, if the terms are well defined, it can be similar to heterologous procreation. But rather, as the term expresses it, it is similar to the adoption of those already born, as it does not justify the previous evil already caused, but tries to remedy it in some way.

Q: In regard to the terms, it seems that the expression "prenatal adoption" is inadequate, because in the strict sense, in an adoption the parents do not contribute to the biological development of the child, but take care of his life and contribute to his psychic and ethical development ...

A: It is not right to say that the adoptive parents do not contribute to the biological development of the child, given that they nourish and take care of him. A particularly relevant case is that of wet nurses or nursing-mothers.

The objection given can be turned around: The contribution of the mother during gestation would intensify precisely her "relation" with the adoptive child; a certain biological -- and psychological -- bond would be added to the affective bond.

Precisely because of this, the act of self-giving and love that it implies is much more intense, generous and heroic than the adoption of those already born.

Q: Prenatal adoption implies implanting an embryo in a woman who did not conceive it. What differentiates this act from surrogate motherhood?

A: The terms here are clarifying and indicate clearly the specific difference of two acts, objectively -- and not just subjectively -- different: Adoption is very different from rental.

The first is an act of love, generosity and self-giving. The second is a loan or "technical service" suitably remunerated, utilitarian, selfish -- "Things are not what they seem, but what they signify," said Chesterton.

To receive the life of a frozen embryo in love and self-giving is not to reduce maternity to a mere physiological function, but the total opposite: It is to help the embryo develop according to his personal human being, precisely by those biological and psychological connections that in another circumstance are presented as unfounded objections.

The woman who adopts a frozen embryo is never a surrogate mother for the ...

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