Monday, July 2, 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that posthumously-conceived children are not entitled to benefits from the Social Security Administration—or at least not unless the SSA decides to recognize them as survivors based on state law.
Louisana, for example—which for quirky reasons has been one the states that has most actively addressed new reproductive technologies in its law—recognizes children born up to three year’s after their father’s death. By the high court’s ruling, Louisianan posthumously-conceived children might be eligible for survivor’s benefits while children from other states not eligible.
As I noted in my post when the case was argued in March, this seems like a reasonable outcome to me. And it’s one more way in which “parentage” is going to vary more and more from state to state (as it does, for example, with laws governing surrogate pregnancies and whether the surrogate is considered to be a mother at any point in the pregnancy and prior to surrender). A century ago parentage was pretty much a given—now it’s more-and-more a matter of consulting the law.
Another blogger has taken up some of the details of the ruling here.
Monday, April 30, 2012
Thursday, April 12, 2012
I recently posted on the Capato case before the U.S. Supreme Court on whether posthumously conceived children are entitled to be recognized as “survivors.” Even though this is a relatively obscure question, I was interested to see that this post attracted an unusually high number of hits.
I promised then to discuss an article on one aspect of the ethics of posthumous reproduction discussed in a recent Fertility and Sterility article by Columbia University doctors Mark Sauer, Gary Nakhuda, and Jeff Wang: how “consent” of the dead figures into posthumous reproduction.
Their article fits squarely into the current practice of viewing informed consent as essential ethical medical care. One might wonder how the issue of consent can be understood in the case of someone whose death renders them incapable of consent or refusal.
Consent has not always been seen as necessary in the case of posthumous reproduction: sperm has sometimes been taken from brain-dead men without knowing what the deceased would have wished; a hospital obtained a court order to allow its doctors to keep a brain-dead Georgia woman on life support in order to gestate the fetus she was carrying (University Health Services, Inc. v. Piazzi, 1986).
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
So-called “cooperative reproduction” is assisted reproduction in which there is a contribution from someone outside the intended parent or parents: donor sperm, donor eggs, or a surrogate who carries the pregnancy. Sometimes parents speak of “donor amnesia” or “surrogate amnesia”—a forgetting of the person who contributed to their becoming parents.
But amnesia can’t just be summoned up. At least in the case of donor sperm and eggs, there’s evidence in the medical literature that some parents can’t just forget the man who donated the sperm or the woman who donated the egg for their child’s conception.
One recent article on the use of donor sperm and donor eggs reported this husband’s observation about his wife’s attitude towards their use of donor eggs:
So, you know, I think in the past there’s probably been, well, there certainly has been thoughts in her mind, because she’s mentioned on a couple of occasions that “He’s mine because I gave birth.” So without question there has been a slight issue for her to handle.
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Do Genes Make a Parent or Not? U.S. Citizen Denied Passports for Twins Conceived with “Foreign” Donor Gametes
Last week I wrote about Karen Capato’s effort to persuade the Supreme Court that her twins, conceived with her late husband Robert’s sperm, were entitled to be recognized as his survivors by the Social Security Administration. Florida courts had found the fact that the twins were not Robert Capato’s heirs, although half their DNA was his. Genetics weren’t dispositive under Florida law.
This week Sarah Elizabeth Richards wrote at Slate’s Double X about a case where the State Department ruled that genetics were indeed dispositive.
Harvard Law Professor Martha A. Field’s classic book on surrogacy Surrogate Motherhood: The Legal and Human Issues, first published in 1988 (and still in print!), raises the question of whether surrogacy should be limited to infertile couples. She notes that no state has yet to restrict to propose restricting surrogacy contracts to infertile couples, although several had proposed restricting surrogacy contracts to married couples. Field’s observations hold today: no state (to my knowledge) requires commissioning couples to have received a diagnosis of infertility but commissioning couples must be married in Nevada, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Texas.
Whether it’s legal or not, there’s something odd about choosing to skip out on pregnancy when one could carry a baby. This came up this week in Emily Yoffe’s Washington Post Dear Prudence chat in a question about how to behave at a baby shower for a woman who was apparently hiring a surrogate out of convenience; the surrogate would be among the guests. The letter writer wrote:
My sister-in-law is dedicated to her career and she is using a surrogate to have a baby. They are doing this because they want a biological child but my sister-in-law does not want to take time off work to have a normal childbirth. Last week I was invited to a baby shower…The surrogate will be attending this shower with my sister-in-law and assorted guests. I guess I am old fashioned, because this all seems very awkward to me. I completely respect and understand using a surrogate if there are fertility problems, but that is not the case here. I’m also not sure what to say or how to act to either the surrogate or my sister-in-law at the shower.