The Perils of Assisted Reproductive Technology #1

Chicago Court Gives Woman Frozen Embryos Despite Ex-Boyfriend’s Objections

In a closely watched, long-running dispute over who gets custody of frozen embryos when the man and woman who created them disagree, an appeals court in Chicago ruled 2 to 1 on Friday that a woman whose fertility was destroyed by cancer treatment could use embryos she created with her ex-boyfriend, over his objections.

Just because you want to have your own biological children does not mean it is wise to do so. If you can’t make a lifelong commitment to each other then don’t create a new baby together. Treat a child as a gift, not as a product. And, since embryos are human beings, this couple have children. Thanks to the wonders of artificial reproductive technology, most of the embryos will remain frozen for an indefinite period of time and then destroyed.

The court ruled that there had been an oral contract between the parties — Karla Dunston and Jacob Szafranski. “Karla asked if he would ‘be willing to provide sperm to make pre-embryos with her,’” the court wrote. “He responded, ‘Yes,’ telling Karla that he wanted to help her have a child.”

Mr. Szafranski plans to appeal the case to the State Supreme Court, said his lawyer, Brian A. Schroeder.

They hope to establish that the decision to procreate is a fundamental human right that the courts should not impose on a man, any more than on a pregnant woman.

The problem is that the man has already procreated (and so has a pregnant woman). An embryo is a new human being. What they really hope to establish is the right of a man to kill embryos.

Where such cases have gone to court, the party that does not want the embryos used has usually been the winner. But there is little consistency between the states in how to resolve such cases.

The states seem pretty consistent in disregarding the interests of actual or potential children.

In the Illinois case, Dr. Dunston, a Chicago emergency room physician who had been given a cancer diagnosis, asked Mr. Szafranski to contribute sperm to create embryos that could be used after her treatment. But Mr. Szafranski broke up with her while she was in treatment and denied her permission to use the embryos. She had promised not to seek money or other support from him to raise any child born from the embryos.

But doesn’t a father have a duty to raise and support his child? Would a child have any interest in knowing her biological father?

While the case has been pending, Dr. Dunston, 43, has had a child using a donated embryo.

One can’t help but wonder whether this child will be deprived of knowing its biological parents.

Mr. Szafranski, 33, a firefighter, paramedic and nurse, has testified that a relationship with another woman ended because of her discomfort over the possibility of his fathering Dr. Dunston’s child.

This guy can’t win. Reproduction is not a game. Poor decisions in this area can ripple out.

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