Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SPARE PARTS R US

How should we respond when some hi-tech advance savages our sense of morals? Read this article, from this month's Genetix Biz, and see what you think…


FETAL FUTURES UP; NEW FACILITY PROMISES BUMPER CROP

Intergene, a wholly owned subsidiary of FleshTek Industries, having recently predicted a banner year, invited this reporter to tour its new state-of-the-art facility.

Set within gently rolling hills outside Gaithersburg, Maryland, Intergene’s complex announces itself only by its user-friendly sign, “Dr. Frank’s Farm,” and the several security checkpoints through which visitors must pass.
               
“Dr. Frank,” actually Dr. Franklin Stone, the trim, scholarly research physician who pioneered the science of fetal husbandry, explains the farm’s homey atmosphere. 
       
“We make it look as rustic as any other farm,” he says, “in order to make science more palatable to lay people. Our security personnel dress in blue jeans and ginghams, the research buildings look on the outside like old barns, and we even leave rusty harrows and plowshares near the parking lot.”
       
Indeed, a casual observer might see this as a commercial chicken farm instead of what it actually is, a factory in which human fetuses are cultured for organ harvests.
       
His technicians carefully join selected human ova and sperm, replicate the product several hundredfold, and nurture the fetuses in artificial wombs until organs are needed. Since each fetus’ genetic makeup is completely known, perfect recipient matches are a matter of course. 
       
Dr. Stone explains the advantages of this technology: “People in need of organs need no longer suffer painful, undignified delays while blind chance selects donors of unknown background and medical history, who may or may not be immunologically compatible. We have what they need on stock right now. And as for the fetuses, our polyvinyl wombs are far more secure and nutritive than the traditional model. It’s a win-win.”
       
While Intergene can anticipate a bullish market in fetus futures this year, the project is not without its problems. One, for example, is shelf life. As yet, the fetuses cannot be frozen, so Intergene must allow full development and delivery. The delivered products are maintained in good shape in a closed compound.
       
“It actually works out well,” Dr. Stone explains, “since occasionally we need a child-sized organ. On the other hand, we’re starting to wonder what we’ll do when products reach maturity. For example, what if they breed with each other? Or, say, what if one escapes from a facility with less careful security than ours? Or the worst-case scenario: what if one learns language?”
       
Dr. Stone raises weighty ethical issues here that have not escaped academic notice. Dr. Arlen Cypher, Bioethicist-in-Residence at the Prestigious Institute-On-The-Hudson, has studied the issue for several years. “While heuristic in concept," Dr. Cypher says, "fetus farms may be congruent with teleological modelling.” Dr. Cypher currently heads a Presidential task force charged with further clarifying the field.
       
Unsurprisingly, some religious officials have gotten involved. Monsignor Francis X. O'Shaughnessy, a spokesman for the Philadelphia archdiocese, advises, “Granted, these fetuses were conceived and nurtured outside the motherly womb, but at least we should give them the benefit of the doubt by baptizing them.”
       
The Monsignor’s advice strikes Dr. Stone humorously. “Ridiculous!” he chuckles. “Baptize them?! You can’t baptize them! They’re patented!”
       
So while Intergene’s fetal futures rise and Dr. Stone returns to his husbandry, significant questions remain. The last word for now is from bioethicist Dr. Cypher: “One thing is absolutely certain: we need more research.”

The article made me angry enough to write a letter to my Congressman, until I learned he also represents FleshTek Industries.

2 comments:

  1. Last week at the hospital where I work I was asked to see a 10 month-old whose faith preference was listed as Catholic. A 10 month-old Catholic baby. Huh. Maybe this child had been to Father O'Shaughnessy already. While this baby could have been accurately called Italian or Irish or Chinese, can we really use a religious faith label on a child? If dad wears a turban can we call his child a Sufi or a Muslim? No child should have a religious moniker attached until they are at least out of high school. Before that it is doubtful that any freedom of choice is involved in any child's religious label, other than, perhaps, saying, this 7 year-old child child was brainwashed to be a Christian (even as his parents were before him?). Am I a Christian because I was born in America instead of Iran? Most likely. Because if I was born in Saudi Arabia it would be a real long-shot that I'd be a Christian. And what if my Christian child received a non-Christian heart? I think Dr. Stone should reconsider, because patented or not, should my child have need of an organ replacement, I shudder to think that my child could receive a heathen heart, opening the possibility that God could send my child to heaven and her heart to hell.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Anonymous...a telling point. I wonder if there are any other issues Dr. Stone needs to consider, too.

    ReplyDelete