Artificial Wombs and Embryo Adoption
In this essay, I will offer a tentative assessment of the ethics of both embryo adoption (Heterologous Embryo Transfer-HET) and the use of an artificial uterus on the basis of currently articulated Catholic teaching. While embryo adoption is already a present reality, a discussion of an artificial uterus may seem utterly unrelated to any real possibility, akin to an ethical evaluation of using a Star Trek transporter. However, such a judgment must also reckon with contemporary developments. In 1973, viability was considered to begin at around 28 weeks gestation and neonates under 1,000 g were allowed to die, but by the year 2000 premature infants of only 18 weeks and 470 g are reported to have survived (Singer & Wells, 1984, p.131; Oderberg, 2000, p. 5). Since then, efforts by scientists to lower the threshold of viability have continued, in particular at Temple University,1 Cornell University,2 and Juntendo University in Japan.3 Given the technological progress that has already taken place in pushing back the limits of gestation, and given the teams of researchers working to move the threshold back even further, the advent of artificial wombs seems less science fiction and more science future.
KeywordsPosit Tated Infertility Defend Clarification
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Althaus, C. (2005). ‘Can one “Rescue” a human embryo? The moral object of the acting woman,’ National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, 5, 113–141.Google Scholar
- Brugger, E.C. (2005). ‘In defense of transferring heterologous embryos,’ National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, 5, 95–112.Google Scholar
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1987). Donum Vitae (Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day) [Online]. Available: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/ documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19870222_respect-for-human-life_en.html.
- Editorial (May 15, 2003). ‘400, 000 embryos and counting,’ New York Times, A34.Google Scholar
- Geach, M. (1999). ‘Are there any circumstances in which it would be morally admirable for a woman to seek to have an orphan embryo implanted in her womb?’ in L. Gormally (Ed.), Issues for a Catholic Bioethic: Proceedings of the International Conference to Celebrate the Twentieth Anniversary of the Foundation of the Linacre Centre 28–31 July 1997 (pp. 341–346). London: The Linacre Center.Google Scholar
- John Paul II (1997). Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) [Online]. Available: http://www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0141/_INDEX.HTM.
- Leach, C.L, Greenspan, J.S., Rubenstein, S.D., Shaffer, T.H., Wolfson, M.R., Jackson, J.C., Delemos, R. & Fuhrman, B.P. (1996). ‘Partial liquid ventilation with perflubron in premature infants with severe respiratory distress syndrome,’ New England Journal of Medince, 335, 761–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- March of Dimes (2004). Premature Birth Rate in U.S. Reaches Historic High; Now Up 29 Percent Since 1981 [Online], February 4, 2004. Available: http://www.marchofdimes.com/ aboutus/10651_10763.asp.
- Moyer, P. (February 24, 2001). ‘Engineered endometrial tissue may provide new infertility therapies,’ in Reuters Health Medical News.Google Scholar
- Oderberg, D.S. (2000). Applied Ethics: A Non-consequentialist Approach (p. 5). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Shettles, L. (1990). ‘Tubal embryo successfully transplanted in utero,’ American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 163, 2026–2027.Google Scholar
- Singer, P. & Wells, D. (1984). The Reproduction Revolution: New Ways of Making Babies (p. 131). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Smith, W.B. (1996). ‘Rescue the frozen?’ Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 96, 72–74.Google Scholar
- St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologiae (ST) III in Opera Omnia iussa edita Leonis XIII P.M. (Rome: Ex Typographia Plygotta S.C. de Propaganda Fide, 1888–1906).Google Scholar
- Tonti-Filippini, N. (2003). ‘The embryo rescue debate: Impregnating women, ectogenesis, and restoration from suspended animation,’ National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, 3, 111–137.Google Scholar
- Zimmerman, S. (August 24, 2003a). ‘Ectogenesis: Development of artificial wombs,’ in the San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, D3.Google Scholar
- Zimmerman, S. (2003b). ‘The fetal position: The real threat to Roe v. Wade,’ in The New Republic [Online]. Available: https://ssl.tnr.com/p/docsub.mhtml?i = 20030818 &s = zimmerman081803.