The Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic


    Creating a Life to Save a Life - CASE STUDY

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    Creating a Life to Save a Life - CASE STUDY

    Post by Admin on Fri Oct 30, 2009 4:34 pm

    Creating a Life to Save a Life

    In England, the Whitaker family faced a terrible situation: their son, Charlie, suffered from a rare disorder that prevented his body from producing red blood cells. Without daily medications and frequent transfusions, Charlie would simply die. With them, he continues to live, but under close medical care.

    For a while, it looks as though Charlie’s parents had figured out an answer to this dilemma. They proposed to use in vitro fertilization to have another child, but with an added twist. They would, as is usual in this procedure, have the eggs fertilized outside the womb in a laboratory dish, but they would then include an additional step. Using new screening techniques, they would screen the embryos to see which would be most able to donate blood-making cells to Charlie. That would be the one that they would choose to implant and bring to term.

    In contrast to the United States and many other countries, in England someone proposing such a procedure must obtain government permission –in this case, from the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority. The Authority rejected the request by the Whitaker family, saying that it was not right to create a human life with the express intent of saving another life.

    This case raises two kinds of questions.

    First, do you agree with the Authority’s decision? Why or why not? What are the significant moral considerations in this case? What consideration is decisive for you?

    Second, who should make these decisions? The United States does not currently have such a board, nor do most other countries. However, something similar is currently under consideration in several countries. Leaving aside financial considerations about who should bear the cost for the moment, who should have the right to make the final decision in such cases? Who should make the decision if the procedure is being paid for by federal health insurance? Private health insurance? The individual patient or family?

    Notes:

    Source: Aaron Zitner, “COLUMN ONE. A Matter of Life, Ethics.” Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2002, p. 1..

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