The Powers That Be are in a shameful state of moral confusion about embryos and stem cell research and all that sort of thing.
Take the case of James Harry Whitaker for example:
James Harry Whitaker was born on Monday after being genetically matched, while still an IVF embryo, to his four-year-old brother Charlie, who has a rare form of anaemia.
His parents Jayson and Michelle had to travel to the United States after UK authorities refused to give them permission for treatment
The [Human Fertility and Embryology Authority] defended its decision not to allow treatment, however. A spokeswoman said the outcome of the Whitaker's case would be considered as evidence for a future review of guidelines, but it was unlikely to lead to immediate changes in the authority's policy.
She said: “We have to look at the benefit for the embryo, not just the sibling. Perhaps some day in the future our policy will change. But at the moment we have to be quite strict in the way we issue licences, on a case-by-case basis, and looking at the scientific, medical, and moral issues before making any decision.
But what she really means is that they are refusing to take into account the moral issue, and are taking refuge in sticking to the Regulations, however odious and immoral. If a four-year-old child is thereby condemned to death, well, they are only following orders so they can't be doing anything wrong, right? And maybe they'll change their policy some day in the future! What kind of a moral defence is that, for killing a child?
“There is clear guidance. HFEA policy states that women are allowed to have treatment only for the benefit of the embryo. It is a tough decision to make.”
The HFEA said Charlie's case differed from that of Zain Hashmi, whose parents were granted permission to screen a new baby to save their son, because Zain's rare blood condition was hereditary.
The authority said in the Hashmi case the potential child was at risk from the disease, but in the Whitaker case, the primary purpose of the child would be as a donor and the child was at no extra risk of contracting the disease Charlie had by virtue of being his sibling.
So, just to make this clear: the British government's policy is that it is all right to have Child 2 via IVF and embryo-selection in order to try to save Child 1 from a horrible life-threatening disease if and only if there's a significant risk that Child 2 might get the same horrible life-threatening disease. However, if there is no such risk then the parents are not allowed to select Child 2 in order to save Child 1.
Take a deep breath and consider the Alice-in-Wonderland-type non-logic of this position. In the case where the parents could end up with two children with the disease, the treatment is deemed to be right. In the case where at least one child definitely won't have the disease it is deemed to be wrong. So wrong as to justify letting a child die for lack of it. If the policy were the other way round the government might have a point, but this is just insane.
The argument for it is supposed to be that it is wrong to have the embryo undergo a medical procedure that is not for his benefit without his consent. But first, embryos that do not yet have brains cannot think and so cannot give or withhold consent, nor can one get a person's consent to bring them into existence. As we said, if the procedure in question involved a significant risk to the ‘saviour sibling’ (as they are known in this field),
there would be a moral issue here, but all the actual procedure involves is taking cord blood that would just have been thrown away anyway.
So this is an issue over which the US authorities are saner than the British ones. Note also that the American Medical Association seems to be sensible too – they support allowing stem cell research. Anti-abortionists object to such research since it involves small clusters of cells that come from dividing egg cells that might otherwise develop into people. Presumably since masturbation or contraception kill millions of sperm that might otherwise develop into new people, they are morally equivalent to mass murder. All together now:
Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.