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.
KeywordsPremature Infant Embryo Transfer Human Embryo Surrogate Motherhood Partial Liquid Ventilation
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