Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sticking frozen embryos into a transplanted uterus? Thoughts on coping, rights and the limits of medicine.

An item on my favourite CBC radio program, The Current. 

News flash from the far shores of medical advance: Frozen embryos are being implanted into a transplanted uterus. And my reaction is: WTF???

The people arguing pro transplant warble on about the tragedy of the woman who cannot bear children. Infertility is considered a health problem, and having your health problems fixed is a right.

This brings us to the whole prickly question of rights. Even as a card-carrying bleeding heart liberal, I believe that the rights thing has been overdone. Rights go with responsibilities.

A nineteenth- century philosopher suggested: "To each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities." I have always thought this a common sense notion. Many people agree. This proposal is among the statements that citizens of the USA mistakenly believe to be in their constitution.  
The paragraph in italics comes from a website on the topic of mistaken constitutionality. http://www.usconstitution.net/constnot.html

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
According to a 2002 Columbia Law School study, nearly two-thirds of persons polled thought that this phrase came from the Constitution or might have been crafted by the Framers. This phrase, however, originates from Karl Marx, and was written in 1875's Critique of the Gotha Program." It is considered by many to be a brief summation of the principles of communism. 

Back to the tragedy of the infertile. 

Dear readers: yes, it is tragic if someone who wants children cannot bear them. But could we, as a society, please come up with different ways to cope with tragedy? Being infertile is not the same as being unhealthy. Life does not come with guarantees. Nobody gets everything. For the infertile, accepting the condition and finding other paths to a meaningful life may well be more conducive to inner peace than an obsessive search for ever more extreme fixes. As a society we seem to be losing the ability to cope with tragedy, any tragedy. A life of ease and fulfilling one's potential has become the default option, or it was until recently. If that was not delivered someone, somehow should fix it and never mind if the community as a whole has the resources. 

We need to human up. 

Anyway, as the steamroller of global change (climate, demographics, power moving to Asia) waltzes over the Western Welfare state, for better or worse, wrenching decisions will have to be made about the limits of care. Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done. Let's start thinking.


Melanie Boxall said...

Well.....yeah. This has nothing to do with rights. There are plenty of women willing to adopt children already here who aren't allowed to for various reasons (including being gay, or in some places not being the right religion), they have no rights. Never mind the right of those children to have loving homes. This is more about profit than anything else.

I am also extremely biased because I am semi-related (in-law of a in-law) to a woman who had two kids by IVF and is a TERRIBLE mother. I think nature knew what it was doing......and I'm just going to shut up now.

Bekki said...

Hear hear! I think infertility is the result of health problems, most of the time. That doesn't mean it IS a health problem. I am forever grateful that I ended my reproduction on a high note. My live-die-die pattern of baby-making was grueling. I can clearly remember and FEEL the time when I would have happily enslaved myself for life in return for a transplanted uterus and frozen embryo, if only it would have given me a living child. However, I was insane. Insane people do not make good decisions.
I also feel and understand the pessimism/realism that underlies all your posts. We've peaked. We want to keep partying like it's 1999, but the oil and money are running out, and we no longer have a Daddy to run to for more.

troutbirder said...

I'll stick with the 19th philosopher idea when it's done without Leninism. And be careful about going too far with the rights without responsibility theme. I can almost hear George Will snickering.... You have a good point.... think about the Botox beautifying generation...:)

Ien in the Kootenays said...

@ Melanie I agree. @Bekki: you are turning into a wise woman. To think I knew you when your oldest was a toddler! Funny, I think of myself as an optimist. I guess, unless I start thinking. @Troutbirder: At times, George Will and I might agree. That is one of my beefs with debates anywhere: the seeming inability of people to agree on SOME points, while disagreeing on others.