January 10, 2008

Bioethics Case Study: Infertility, Cures and Questions

This case study is an adaptation of true account. I hope you will take the time to engage the questions at the end of the case, and maybe provide some more.
Jane and John Dough are a happily married couple in your church. Jane grew up in the church, a daughter of an upstanding member of the community who is also a church elder. Jane met John while they were both in college. They were engaged and were married in Jane's home church and eventually moved back to the community where she grew up.

It's been 6 years since they were married, Jane is now 28 and John is 30. Still well within their reproductive age, they have experienced difficulty in conceiving a child. Their friends and others at their church try to encourage them by telling them "don't worry, you will have a baby soon enough," and "you just need to relax." Jane's best friend suggested that maybe she needed to consult with a fertility specialist. They take her advice and consult with a specialist.

Through many tests and procedures, they learn that they can have children, but not without IVF. Because this procedure is very expensive and the harvesting of her eggs can be a painful procedure, they opted to have 10 of her eggs fertilized at one time.

It is now 5 years since the IVF procedure, Jane is 33 and John is now 35. They have 2 beautiful children who are 3 and 1. They are the result of implanting 4 embryos, 2 of which did not successfully implant. A fifth embryo was discarded because it was discovered thorugh PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) that the embryo had a genetic defect, likely Down's Syndrome. 5 of the original 10 embryos remain cryopreserved, they have been there for 5 years. However, the recent debates over embryonic stem cell research have caused Jane and John consider the life of these embryos, but the prospect of 5 more children is overwhelming. They seek to donate them to family members of friends.

Should they have consulted with someone else in addition to an infertility specialist?
Is dealing with infertility about finding cures only, or is it a worldview question?
How might have things transpired had they been equipped before their own crisis?
What is the moral status of the embryo?
Does personhood apply to imperfect embryos?
Who will be affected if the embryos are adopted by close friends/family?
Does being a Christian guarantee that you will automatically pursue the right course of action in this or any other dilemma?

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