Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 5, 2009
Reproductive 'choices' lead to surreal results, says ethicist
NANCY FRAZIER O'BRIEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
PHILADELPHIA - The case of an Ohio woman who recently gave birth to another couple's child because she was implanted with the wrong embryo shows how "potentially surreal" the situation can become when reproduction is separated from the intimacy of marriage, said a leading Catholic ethicist.
Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk said the situation faced by Carolyn and Sean Savage of Sylvania, Ohio, is a reminder that the exclusive nature of marriage and the marital act is disrupted through in vitro fertilization and other reproductive technologies.
"You have the possibility now of receiving the wrong child altogether," he said in a Sept. 29 telephone interview.
"That's physically impossible the normal way. Once you step outside the normal elements of exclusivity, it becomes potentially surreal."
Carolyn Savage gave birth Sept. 24 to a boy whose biological parents were Paul and Shannon Morell of Troy, Mich.
In a statement, the Savages offered "our heartfelt congratulations to the Morell family on the birth of their son."
The Savages, who have three children, also asked for privacy, saying, "Our family is going through a very difficult time."
Carolyn Savage was implanted with the Morells' frozen embryo and was told of the mistake by a doctor from the fertility clinic 10 days later.
The Savages have told news media, however, that they never considered an abortion or an attempt to keep the child.
"Of course, we will wonder about this child every day for the rest of our lives," Carolyn Savage said on NBC's Today show before the birth.
"We have hopes for him, but they're his parents, and we'll defer to their judgment on when and if they ever tell him what happened and any contact that's afforded us. We just want to know he's healthy and happy."
Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said the situation shows that the question that often follows the "mistaken decisions" to have in vitro fertilization is "how can we best pick up the pieces?"
"The best thing we can do is to make sure that no abortions take place, and that was done here," he said.
"But that does not in any way address the moral dilemmas posed by the prior act - the root cause of the mistaken decision," said the priest.
Pacholczyk said he often receives requests for guidance from couples who have frozen embryos that they can no longer use. "It's a burning question for them. But I tell them there is no simple answer."
The priest said the "minimal obligation" for such couples is to "acknowledge that they have children trapped in these frozen orphanages" and to "pay the monthly fees to be sure that their children don't end up thawing and dying."
But Pacholczyk said he is skeptical that science will come up with a solution.
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