The proposed amendments to the IVF law which will, among other things, introduce embryo freezing are aimed at making IVF safer for mothers and their babies, but the process, along with some more controversial concepts that are also being proposed, raise an ethical and moral conundrum.
The embryo freezing proposal seeks to address the issue of multiple (and many times premature) births that are often a result of IVF, and which can jeopardise the health of both mother and child.
The government is suggesting that two embryos would be implanted while the third would be frozen. This has raised the issue that some embryos will be left ‘on the shelf’, unwanted.
Speaking on INDEPTH, health minister Chris Fearne says this will not be the case because the third embryo will most likely be used by the same couple in a second cycle. He also insisted that the embryo cannot remain frozen forever, because it has a right to develop.
That is why the amendments propose that any ‘leftover’ embryos are anonymously donated. The negative reaction to this, it seems, is mostly linked to the fact that these embryos can be donated not only to infertile couples but also to single parents and gay people.
The Church on Saturday and Opposition Leader Adrian Delia yesterday said that the proposed amendments are destroying the ‘traditional’ concept of the family. But if anything it is society that has adopted new
In making this argument the Church and the Opposition Leader are effectively telling gay couples, single mothers and widowers that they are not a family. Society has shown that it disagrees with this argument. And, after all, the PN had voted in favour of same sex marriage.
There are, however, other concerns that should not be ignored. The bishops have said that embryo donation will create a new form of orphans – children who grow up without knowing who their biological parents are. In this respect they are right and politicians should put the rights of the child at the forefront when legislating.
Another concern that should not be brushed off is the fact that some embryos may be lost during what is called the ‘thawing’ process. We believe that the government should be more forthright about this and give its best assurances that life will be protected at all stages.
Some have said that the amendments open the door to abuse and abortion. The health minister has allayed these concerns by assuring that all forms of experimentation on embryos will be strictly prohibited, with harsh penalties to be imposed on anyone who does, and that embryos with a disability will not be terminated. He says the entire process will be audited and recorded, meaning that there will be no room for abuse.
Perhaps one of the strongest arguments being made against the proposed amendments is the introduction of surrogacy. While the government had pledged to improve the IVF law, it certainly does not have a mandate to introduce this highly controversial concept.
The right thing to do on such a delicate subject is to wait another four years and introduce it in the next electoral manifesto. The PL probably refrained from doing so for fear that it would not go down well with most of the electorate. While this might be the case, such a delicate matter should be introduced honestly and transparently. Then again the PL has a history of coming up with mid-term surprises.
There are arguments both for and against surrogacy. In some of the cited examples it might make sense, especially in cases where a woman might not be able to carry a child in her own womb.
But some other examples are so highly convoluted that one might ask why these prospective parents do not opt to adopt a child instead. Which also begs the question: should the state not make it easier and more affordable to adopt?
Adrian Delia, in his initial reaction yesterday, complained that the Opposition had been given barely three days to study the proposals. He said that the process should stop until a proper discussion takes place. In this respect he is right – this is a country where months-long discussions are held on issues such as spring hunting but something so delicate is ushered in almost by stealth, and without people really having a say in the matter.
Original article found on The Malta Independent