Let us talk about in vitro fertilisation

Fr Jaroslaw Kwiecien talks to Maria Smereczyńska, a correspondent member of the Pontifical Academy ‘Pro Vita’.

At the beginning of September the special parliamentary commission began working on the projects concerning in vitro fertilisation. Later the projects will be discussed by the Parliament and the Senate. Then it will be the time for fervent discussions among ethicists, theologians, politicians and all people interested in this issue whether the method of artificial fertilisation can be permitted in our country. Maria Smereczynska explains the method.

Fr Jaroslaw Kwiecien: – What are the biggest problems related to the method of in vitro fertilisation?

Maria Smereczynska: – We are talking about the medical-technical aspects of the artificial fertilisation. Firstly, doctors fertilize an increased number of egg cells than they are placed in the uterus. Secondly, the excess of embryos is most frequently frozen, hibernated in liquid nitrogen at the temperature of minus 195°C. At such low temperatures it happens that the cell structure of embryos is damaged. It can also happen that the developed and not used embryos are simply destroyed or given to someone else. Another side effect of this method is that women are endangered to have health problems. The hormonal hyperstimulation they undergo is never fully safe and has side effects. It often influences women’s health, which can be read on the Internet forums of those women who have undergone such a treatment. The next problem is the usage of the reproductive cells of inorganic donors. If both spouses are infertile they need sperm and egg cells of the third party. One can call it biological unfaithfulness and the consequence is that in the future the child will not be sure whether its mother is 100% biological mother. Speaking straight, a child can have even five parents, i.e. two infertile spouses, two donors of the genetic material and sometimes a woman who accepts and bears the child for another married couple, being the surrogate mother. A lot is being said about the ethical, emotional and legal problems of this situation. By the way, it is worth adding that the in-vitro procedure is burdened with 2.6 times of increase in the risk of bearing an underweighted child and with multiple pregnancies, which are not rare using this method, the risk increases. Besides, children conceived by in vitro fertilisation are born on average in the 30th week of pregnancy and in case of natural conception pregnancy lasts on average 33.5 weeks. The other dangers, which I will only mention, is the risk of placenta praevia, tumours in the born babies, cerebral palsy, weaker physical growth in the first period of life, educational difficulties, etc. Those who want in vitro fertilisation are told little about it. I do now know why although one can suspect that when you do not know something the problem is money…

– What are the fundamental ethical and moral doubts concerning the in vitro method, which the Church reminds people of?

– The conception should result from spouses’ love, their personal unity. The Creator planned it. In case of artificial fertilisation this act is done by technological means outside of the personal unity of parents. It results from the desire of infertile couples that want to have a child at all costs. Since they think that they have the right to have a child like they possess a house, a car or some other things. They want to meet the need at all costs, assuming that human desires should be fulfilled. But even the noblest desire does not mean the right to be fulfilled. Referring to the opinion of the theologian of the Pontifical Household one should notice that a child conceived artificially, not for its own good, but to fulfil the need or aspiration of its ‘producers’ will always be marked by this slavery. For example, if it happens that the child is born with some defects the mentality that inclined its parents to such actions will lead to acknowledge this ‘damaged’ child as the unsuccessful effect of technological actions and it can be rejected because it has not reached expected standards or assumptions and not as a child that must be accepted and loved regardless of its weakness. One can read about such cases in scientific texts! Infertility is a disease and no one questions that. It should be treated but the method of artificial fertilisation is not a treatment of infertility. It can let us only get round the problem that remains unsolved. There is yet another aspect of this issue. The liberal and feminist environments as well as some medical doctors who are interested in rapid profits insist to give full consent to in vitro fertilisation and to do this fertilisation at the cost of taxpayers even if they oppose this method. It is worth noticing that the same environments that demand this refunding also aggressively postulate to refund contraception that destroy fertility and is one of the causes of infertility. As you can see, on the one hand, refunded contraception, which allows you to fulfil all your whims and sexual needs without limits and control, often destroying woman’s fertility. And on the other hand, the refunded method to regain fertility, even in such cases when women lose it because of using contraception and want to meet their needs to have children! The Church keeps reminding us of the foundations of humanity, dignity of every man, equality of all people as persons, defence of every human being from conception to natural death. Therefore, giving your decision to conceive a child to doctors’ hands or even wider gremia that set the conditions, is to take over the role of the Creator by man. Some medical doctors receive creative powers – so far man had such power only over things! They will decide about the quality of babies, eliminating the sick individuals that do not fulfil the standards, requirements, etc. Such actions also cut down the most important foundation of medicine ‘primum non nocere’! (first, do not harm). All these things are huge and unpredictable threats towards the future of mankind. No wonder, more and more people who get to know what the in vitro technique is begin appealing to the MPs to choose the project that forbids using this method completely. For example, such actions have been launched by the Association of Catholic Families in the Diocese of Sosnowiec. They want to write an open letter to the MPs in which they will try to convince them to forbid the artificial fertilisation in Poland. Bishop Grzegorz Kaszak of Sosnowiec, who dealt with family issues in the Vatican, fully supports their actions. Their activities are worthy to be followed.

– Let us sum up then: why should we oppose using the in vitro method considering that it results in a new life?

– Some time ago the cover of one of the most influential weeklies showed a baby with the words, ‘Is life a sin?’ The weekly had a series of articles about the in vitro method, especially presenting the stand of the Church. But the presentation was so manipulated that it showed that the Church was on the way to happiness, harming infertile spouses and that the stand of the Church was not modern since it forbade the procedures that gave chances to new life. We should remember that the priority is not what man wants or regards as his right but what the Creator expects, which is for the good of man. The will of God is first of all the Decalogue and it shows this matter very clearly. The very presence of a human embryo outside of its mother’s organism is a big threat to it, often leading to its destruction, which opposes the fifth commandment. Therefore, such deeds should be treated by the law just as any other situation of threat to health or human life. In turn, both the ways of receiving the genetic material and the very act of in vitro fertilisation must lead to infringe the sixth commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery’. The command ‘You shall not kill’ is also broken by the fact that more embryos are created during this procedure and not all of them can develop to reach normal adult human life. Then there are various kinds of moral overuse, for example long term freezing of such embryos or just using them for medical experiments.

"Niedziela" 38/2009

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl