Much is being said, and will be said, about the current IVF Bill being proposed. From the very outset of assisted fertilisation, two simple sacrosanct rights should always be maintained.
These are the principle of being pro-life and the principle of protecting the rights of the child – born or unborn.
Pro-life points to a mentality that seeks to create life and not destroy it. The rights of the child include primarily the right to know his identity and also to be given an upbringing by a parent/parents who strive to give the child what is best.
Any decision affecting reproduction/fertilisation needs to respect these two principles to the full.
Assisted fertilisation – this is a closed controversy and no real further qualms exist about whether this should be allowed or not. Religious fears of the past do not apply anymore and this method is certainly pro-life.
Embryo freezing – this is a newer concept and maybe more difficult to accept as fertilisation has already taken place.
It is certainly pro-life and, as long as the right of that embryo to be given a chance to be conceived one day is respected, then this practice should not be seen as a menace.
The donating mother should, however, maintain the responsibility of giving that embryo a chance to be conceived within a stipulated period of time.
Undue pressure on the surrogate mother or excessive financial pressure on the prospective parents should be kept under legal control
Same-sex couples – whether the right of the child to a good upbringing is infringed if this is done by same-sex couples is still undetermined, however there is a large amount of research that disproves this.
As a child born to heterosexual parents can experience problems from the capricious attitudes of his parents so too can problems be met with same-sex couples.
This problem, I suspect, is more of a population mentality rather than the upbringing of the child itself and I tend to believe that as society changes its attitudes the potential stigma of being raised by same-sex parents will slowly but surely go away.
Surrogacy – this is still illegal at present and a practice that needs to be reviewed.
It is certainly pro-life and so should be regarded as one of the potential tools that assist procreation and should cease to be illegal. Of course, undue pressure on the surrogate mother or excessive financial pressure on the prospective parents should be kept under legal control.
Anonymous gamete donation – this, I think, is the major sticking point of this whole controversy.
Gamete donation is certainly pro-life and so should be allowed but the anonymous part of it completely tramples upon the right of that child to satisfy the innate natural need for any human being to know where they came from.
It is worse than creating an orphan child as the child will never be able to know who one or both of his parents are no matter the amount of research attempts made.
This injustice and extreme suffering (which only today’s adults produced from an ‘anonymous source’ can describe) is a practice which is barbaric and only considers the interests of the parents, disregarding the child altogether.
Anyone who donates gametes should do so with the knowledge that the child at any stage may well want to know his biological origin if he so desires.
Of course, the financial and upbringing responsibilities need to be taken over by the ‘receiving’ parent of the gamete but the child should always have the right to know his biological origin.
I make a plea to all those with the heavy responsibility of drafting this Bill. Please be pro-life but always keep the rights of the child in mind.
This is not about same-sex couples, winning votes or being ‘more modern’ – it is about the right of the child to be protected till and after birth and also to have a right to know its identity.
We cannot – with the stroke of a pen – dismantle this sacrosanct privilege which in our great majority we all enjoy.
Jason Zammit is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Mater Dei Hospital.
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