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I just read a shocking article, “IVF Baby Born Using Revolutionary Genetic-Screening Process” (July 7, 2013), published online by The Guardian. What shocked me most was the casual manner its author Ian Samples uses to describe what—in a morally sane world—could only be described as a grotesque and inhumane procedure. The procedure hailed as “revolutionary” by Samples is called “next-generation screening” (NGS). NGS is used by fertility specialists to check for abnormal chromosomes in human embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Parents are able to use the results of the screening to determine which embryos to implant, destroy, or place in “cold storage.” On May 18, Connor Levy became the first child successfully born after having undergone NGS as an embryo.

The reason Samples is able to speak about NGS in such a casual manner is that he never discloses the scientific fact that embryos are human beings. To be certain, terms like embryo and fetus can be used accurately. However, they can also be used to dehumanize human beings and mask the atrocities we commit against them. To unmask the grotesque and inhumane practice Sample hides with such casual callousness, I will rewrite some of his sentences, replacing the word embryo with human being.

Original: After standard treatment at the US clinic, the couple had 13 IVF embryos to choose from. The doctors cultured the embryos for five days, took a few cells from each and sent them to Wells in Oxford for genetic screening. Tests showed that while most of the embryos looked healthy, only three had the right number of chromosomes.

Rewrite: After standard treatment at the US clinic, the couple had 13 IVF human beings to choose from. The doctors cultured the human beings for five days, took a few cells from each and sent them to Wells in Oxford for genetic screening. Tests showed that while most of the human beings looked healthy, only three had the right number of chromosomes.


Original:
It can't make embryos better than they were in the beginning, but it can guide us to the best ones.

Rewrite: It can't make human beings better than they were in the beginning, but it can guide us to the best ones.


Original:
Based on the screening results, the US doctors transferred one of the healthy embryos into Scheidts and left the rest in cold storage.

Rewrite: Based on the screening results, the US doctors transferred one of the healthy human beings into Scheidts and left the rest in cold storage.


Original:
IVF produces only a dozen or so embryos at best. . . . Scheidts still has two screened embryos in cold storage, but has not yet decided whether to use them. "We haven't even thought about that. We'll see how the first year goes."

Rewrite: IVF produces only a dozen or so human beings at best. . . . Scheidts still has two screened human beings in cold storage, but has not yet decided whether to use them. "We haven't even thought about that. We'll see how the first year goes."

Since when is it morally acceptable for us to put human beings in cold storage, forcing them to await our decision to destroy or let them live? Since when is it morally acceptable for us to create thirteen human beings with the intention of subjecting them to genetic screening to determine whether we allow them to continue living? When did the value of human beings become so cheapened that we treat them on the same level as manufactured products we can discard at will?

Ian Sample’s article would have been more properly titled “Welcome to the Culture of Death.” It is an apt expression of the death-dealing ethic, reducing human beings to the status of objects to be manipulated and used according to our own selfish ends—rather than recognizing them as persons to whom the only adequate response is love.
 
About the Author
Bill Maguire 

Bill Maguire earned his Masters in Theological Studies from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. He served for two years as the managing editor of Communio: International Catholic Review and has worked with youth and youth adults in various capacities: youth minister, campus minister, adjunct professor of theology.
 
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