My way or the high­way!

This is the at­ti­tude of our Prime Min­is­ter, who is be­ing pig-headed and seems to have de­cided a long time ago to in­tro­duce cer­tain changes to the IVF law, even though this in­volved the sac­ri­fice of in­no­cent hu­man lives in the process.

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS - Michael As­ciak michael.as­ciak@par­la­ment.mt Dr As­ciak is a Se­nior Lec­turer II in Ap­plied Sci­ence at MCAST

We have seen that we can have IVF with fresh and frozen oocytes (eggs), which has given us an eth­i­cal edge and suc­cess too. Our preg­nancy rate per em­bryo trans­fer is 30 per cent, sim­i­lar to the Euro­pean av­er­age, and our take-home baby rate is 21 per cent, slightly be­low the 25 per cent Euro­pean av­er­age, with about 250 ba­bies born through IVF in six years. Not bad con­sid­er­ing that our IVF cen­tre and ex­per­tise is 6 years old, that we carry out IVF eth­i­cally and pre­serve hu­man dig­nity, that we do not do Pre-im­plan­ta­tion Ge­netic Di­ag­no­sis and dis­card dis­abled em­bryos like those with Down’s syn­drome and that we pro­tect hu­man life com­pletely.

How­ever the Prime Min­is­ter is de­ter­mined to in­tro­duce IVF with em­bryo freez­ing in or­der to have a batch of frozen em­bryos avail­able for sur­ro­gacy, and ac­cord­ing to his ill­given ad­vice, to maybe raise the IVF take home baby rate by about two per cent by trans­fer­ring em­bryos to a women’s womb at five days of de­vel­op­ment rather than at three days of de­vel­op­ment, at the so called blas­to­cyst stage rather than the morula stage. To do this af­ter five days, weaker or non-vi­able em­bryos would have likely died, and the new le­gal amend­ments will al­low for the fer­til­i­sa­tion of five oocytes rather than the pre­vi­ous two. The re­sult is that one could pos­si­bly end up with more than two em­bryos at the five­day trans­fer stage, which means that the best two have to be cho­sen for trans­fer to the womb (a eu­genic prac­tice) and the oth­ers frozen (to be later do­nated to peo­ple who will take them). The re­sult­ing cost comes as a gross trav­esty of hu­man dig­nity.

To be able to bring in sur­ro­gacy and carry out the above-men­tioned blas­to­cyst stage trans­fer, the gov­ern­ment is pre­pared to do away with the life of sev­eral (10 to 30 per cent) hu­man be­ings at an early stage of de­vel­op­ment both be­cause they die in the thaw­ing or freez­ing process and be­cause they will in­evitably ac­cu­mu­late as they do in other coun­tries, which then presents a prob­lem with what to do with them other than do­nate them to sur­ro­gate mothers as baby com­modi­ties. This is un­ac­cept­able eth­i­cally and un­like the way the gov­ern­ment thinks, the end does not jus­tify the means, mean­ing it is not ac­cept­able to do some­thing wrong to achieve some­thing right (if one can ever call sur­ro­gacy right). Not that this prin­ci­ple both­ers it or any of the Labour MPs it seems.

In its rush to ap­pear pro­gres­sive and mod­ern and to have its way, the gov­ern­ment and its cronies are say­ing and do­ing a lot of silly things such as stat­ing that the early stage em­bryo is not a baby or a child be­cause it has only eight cells while big daddy has about a tril­lion cells. What dif­fer­ence may I ask is there whether I sweep away the life of a hu­man be­ing at the eight-cell stage and that at the tril­lion cell stage or any cell stage in between? The re­al­ity is that sci­ence shows us clearly that at the stage of fer­til­i­sa­tion there is an ac­tively de­vel­op­ing hu­man be­ing with its own DNA and ac­tive po­tency to de­velop till birth and adult­hood. These are called the Carnegie stages of em­bry­olog­i­cal de­vel­op­ment which start at the sin­gle cell zy­gote stage af­ter fer­til­i­sa­tion is ended. Any­thing else is not sci­en­tific! Cells at the eight-cell stage are said to be totipo­tent be­cause they de­velop into an adult hu­man be­ing if given half the chance, that is, un­like skin or liver cells said to be ma­ture cells or pluripo­tent stem cells which can never do so. This can only hap­pen af­ter fer­til­i­sa­tion when the estab­lish­ment of the cell with the new sin­gu­lar em­bry­onic DNA has taken place and new orig­i­nal epi­ge­netic pat­terns start to be laid down. Not only is it a hu­man be­ing, a new unique mem­ber of our species, but it is also a hu­man per­son be­cause it is an in­di­vid­u­ated, de­vel­op­ing hu­man be­ing, af­ter Boethius’ def­i­ni­tion of per­son­hood that be­ing an in­di­vid­u­ated hu­man be­ing of a ra­tional na­ture. It is the ra­tional na­ture or essence of the hu­man be­ing that de­fines him as such rather than the ex­hib­ited par­tic­u­lars such as mov­ing, walk­ing or ex­hibit­ing self-con­scious­ness as we all ex­hibit these traits at cer­tain times of our life and not at oth­ers.

The fact is Joseph Mus­cat must be seen to have his way, he has to have freez­ing and sur­ro­gacy brought in to ac­com­mo­date lob­bies, even though strictly speak­ing there is no need for em­bryo freez­ing to be al­lowed in or­der to bring about sur­ro­gacy, as this can still hap­pen with frozen eggs! All this is done in the name of progress, with­out any re­spect for nascent hu­man life. Some progress! I would say a ret­ro­grade trav­esty of hu­man dig­nity.

I per­son­ally would find dif­fi­culty rec­on­cil­ing this po­si­tion with nat­u­ral law, which com­mands us to re­spect and pro­tect other hu­man lives as mem­bers of our own species, es­pe­cially if they are in­no­cent and pow­er­less and en­dowed with an ab­so­lute right to life. I find it dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile it with virtue ethics and par­tic­u­larly jus­tice, jus­tice ask­ing us to give ev­ery­one his equal share. I find it dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile it with the ethics of duty. I find it dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile this po­si­tion with Mal­tese law which is clear about pur­pose­ful killing of in­no­cent life. I find it im­pos­si­ble to rec­on­cile this po­si­tion with Chris­tian doc­trine be­cause of the Di­vine or­der not to kill (Do not kill – other hu­man be­ings), es­pe­cially St Paul’s clear po­si­tion in Ro­mans where he states clearly that it is not morally ac­cept­able to do some­thing bad to ever achieve some­thing good. Nei­ther does it tally with any com­mand­ment to love one an­other. There­fore, I leave it to the dic­tates of these in­di­vid­u­als to jus­tify their con­sciences and think about what to say when they ul­ti­mately need to give an ac­count of their ac­tions. I hope they can con­vince God that the eight-cell em­bryo is not a hu­man be­ing, but re­spect­fully to them and to God, they sure do not con­vince me!

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