January 31, 2007

Science + Religion + Politics = Freak Show

Here’s the story so far:

The science: Multiple births are the result of fertility drugs, administered to couples who have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive. They are, in fact, a common result of the treatment, and most parents are advised to abort some of the fetuses if several are fertilized successfully. This is because premature births (which have a lower survival rate) are far more likely to occur where there are multiple births. On January 5th and 6th, a couple from British Columbia gave birth to sextuplets. There are currently six sets of sextuplets in the United States, all living, and all the result of both fertility treatments before and extensive medical attention after their conception and births.

The religion: This couple decided to keep all the fetuses alive, as they are two of the faithful; in this case Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have also decided, in accordance with their religion, not to allow blood transfusions for their children. There is a schism in the Temple on this issue, including a statement allowing compounds from blood (such as hemoglobin) being allowed, but that does not seem to be the case here. This is a problem, as premature births often need transfusions to stay alive in the first months after birth. That was the case with these infants, born at just 25 weeks. Normal term is between 36 and 40 weeks.

The politics: Two of the six infants died soon after they were born; then on Friday, January 26, the provincial government took out a court order for temporary custody of one of the surviving children, followed by two more, one on Saturday, one on Monday, as those children were deemed at risk. (Transfusions to infants are uncommon in B.C., subject to greater restrictions due to the risk of HIV/AIDS, and have been decreasing over the past 15 years.) At least two of the seized children had transfusions before all three were returned to the parents.

The freak show: The parents are now suing the government to ensure no further seizures could occur. Their lawyer has claimed that “the government was obligated to give parents a fair hearing, and they did not give [my clients] a fair hearing”. The parents have also said that the people performing the transfusion “were violating our little girl,” rather than saving her life.

The government counters that they have an obligation to step in where “children are in need of protection”. This government specifically had been under fire for its treatment of children, and is sure to be still stinging under past failures.

Question(s) of the Day: If your religion is opposed to abortion, as it believes that a blastocyst is a person, and in doing so reduced the chance of survival of ALL the embryos dramatically, then aren’t you sitting at a null set? Can you really excuse it as "Gods Will" when you needed the help of technology to becoam pregnant in the first place?

To deny blood transfusions to the premature infants is to increase the risk of their death dramatically; if four of the embryos were aborted, then the chance of the other two being dangerously premature becomes very slim, and they would not have needed any transfusions.
The third option, and the one that the parents wanted to take, was to take the fertility treatments; allow all the embryos to become infants; and deny those infants the medical attention they needed.

A simple request, then: Many couples who are having difficulty conceiving, and who eventually decide to adopt one of thousands of children that desperately need parents, find that after they have adopted, they become pregnant naturally. So whatever your faith; whatever your beliefs; whatever your desire for a “natural” child: could I beg that you consider adoption for your family?


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posted by Thursday at 8:52 pm


Blogger Aunty Bertha said...


You said it all so I don't have to.


5:52 pm  
Blogger Thursday said...

Thanks for the thought, Aunty, but it was a bit sloppy. A couple bits I missed (including wondering if fertility drugs are still "Gods Will") and some rewording was needed, but all is good now.

At least I know the point got through!

1:09 am  

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