Category Archives: immortality

Rotten Root of an Infertile Culture

My latest piece for Ethika Politika:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that sin includes any activity that brings death to the body, or death to the soul.

Increased utilization of third party reproductive technologies and our current infertility epidemic are deeply tied to sin. The birth dearth is primarily a result of the marriage decline. The marriage decline is a result of a profound absence in virtues and character development—resulting in a culture in which people can’t trust themselves and can’t trust the opposite sex to meet the basic demands of a marriage: commitment, fidelity, and cooperation. We don’t need more sexual education, we need more virtues education.

I recently was confronted about my Catholic conversion by a teenager whom I’ve known for years. “You’re not going to force your religion on your kids, are you?” he chided. I responded defensively, “I plan on at least giving my children the gift of a moral education—which the Church expertly provides.” From there began a conversation about whether there was an absolute truth or not. My teenage friend announced that there is no such thing: “morality is arbitrary … Good and bad means different things for different people in different circumstances.” Later in the conversation, the topic of children came up. I asked him, “How old do you think you’re going to be when you get married and have kids?” “I’m not sure I want to have kids,” he said.

I’m not sure I want to have kids.

His response shocked me greatly, because I’ve known him for years and I know that he is great with kids and since early childhood he has regularly declared his desire to eventually be a dad. Were his first remarks regarding truth related to this change in desire for children? I think they are.

David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a column in 2011addressing a researched study that found that young Americans lack categories and vocabulary on matters of “right and wrong, moral dilemmas, and the meaning of life”:

Read more…

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Brangelina, Brava

My latest piece for Verily magazine:

Mr. & Mrs. Smith, at last!

On August 23, 2014, one of the world’s most recognizable couples wed in a small civil ceremony on their private estate in France. Of course I’m speaking of Brangelina, the celebrity duo otherwise known as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The pair has six children together: Maddox adopted from Cambodia, Pax from Vietnam, Zahara from Ethiopia, and three biological children: Shiloh, Vivienne, and Knox.

To the surprise of many, it was their children who made many of the most important decisions surrounding the ceremony—from her dress design to the wedding vows. But this all makes sense, considering the couple says it was the kids’ insistence that led them down the aisle.

Their (and our) interest and jubilance surrounding their parent’s marriage is well-founded. Relationship stability is of monumental importance to happiness and societal well-being. In fact a study in the journal Children, Families, and Foster Care reported that family stability and healthy child development go hand-in-hand.

Read more…

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Black Friday. Designer Babies.

Great post over at acculturated. And I always appreciated when my quotes are recycled.

Our collective back-patting about anti-consumerist self-criticism is in fact classist condescension.  Our society has no qualms about consumerism, provided it is genteel consumerism.  But when some people have the bad manners to be indiscreet about their appetite for consumption, our defense mechanisms spring into action.

McGinley continues:

In a New York Times column that cements Michio Kaku’s status as the Joel Osteen of science, the celebrity physicist and irrational optimist happily predicts that “in a few decades, parents may be able to choose many genetic characteristics of their children.”  (His one sentence throwaway about a “vigorous ethical debate” hardly inspires confidence.)  Of course just as assisted reproduction is today a procedure available only to the affluent, we can expect that designer children will only be available to affluent consumers of the products of conception.

blackfriday

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Going The Distance for Children

Over at The Public DiscourseI had a piece published regarding a baby boy born after being frozen as an embryo for 19 years.

liamExperts estimate there are over 400,000 frozen embryos waiting for their summons in cryo-banks across the country. Many people rightly hold these embryos in high regard, recognizing them as more than tissue—they are human beings in early development, complete with unique DNA sequences, and the active potential, if given a suitable environment, to develop to adulthood. So when these embryos are “adopted,” taken out of storage, implanted into a womb somewhere and allowed to become fully grown people, should we celebrate?

To kidnap is to transport a person, against his will, and confine or falsely imprison him. A remarkable number of child kidnappings are motivated by custody disputes. Divorces and separations inspire some adults to take children across state lines, or often enough overseas, to avoid interference from and interaction with the other parent or guardian.

Using distance as a tool and taking a child elsewhere is helpful when your objective is to prevent kin from coming and finding the child you’ve taken, or if you’d rather not have your grown child go looking for their kin.

These adults try to increase the feeling of impossibility, to make the child and other parent or guardian feel like the chances of finding each other are slim to none. The more daunting the task, the more likely the kidnapped child will accept their circumstances and the more likely the other parent will stop looking or become defeated.

Distance often works to break the connection, but we still hear stories from those who speak up and declare that they’ve been robbed of family and identity.

Jane Jeong Trenka, author of Fugitive Visions: An Adoptee’s Return to Koreaand The Language of Bloodwas recently featured in the New York Times for her bold return to Korea. At 23, she put her trip “home” on a credit card and communicated with her mother through a translator. Five years after her birth mother’s death, she moved to Korea for good, divorcing her American husband and leaving her job and American family behind. She’s not the only one. The majority of Korean adoptees return to the land of the birth, at least to visit.

Trenka’s reconnection was successful only because she didn’t face the usual obstacles. Her birth mother had provided letters and gifts. Most international adoptees’ origins are shrouded in anonymity. In order to succeed at finding a birth parent, they must enlist the help of a private investigator, a translator, and an international travel agent. Then, once they arrive, the language and cultural barriers are steep—intimacy is blocked until they have learned each other’s language. And by then the parent(s) may be elderly or dead.

I know this from firsthand experience. Not only was my sister a Korean adoptee, but for my entire childhood I only knew three facts about my own biological father. He was blond, had blue eyes, and a college degree. I was born when there was no internet. No DNA tests. To find him seemed impossible.And so I never entertained the idea that I’d be able to find or know him.

But then miracles happened. I received a one-page tear sheet with a few fill-in-the-blank answers that suddenly gave my anonymous sperm donor father a personality. He was Polish. He was a scuba-diving instructor. He studied respiratory medicine. The internet bloomed and sites like FTDNA and 23andMe emerged. Suddenly, it didn’t seem impossible that I might be able to find him.

And I’ve been searching for eight years, with the help of DNA tests and a private investigator. The man we suspect could be my father unfortunately died several years ago of lung cancer, right around the time when I started looking.

For caretakers who don’t wish their children to long for their genetic kin, stories like Trenka’s and mine are annoying. There are only two options from here. One, adoptive parents or those using sperm or egg donors must concede that genetic ties are important and find some way of cooperating with the child’s genetic parents—which can be messy and inconvenient for the caretakers. Or two, the caretaker can make it even more difficult for the child to find his genetic kin. The caretaker will reign supreme with a hermetic title as Mother or Father.

Distance or Dungeon. Or both.

Today, adults can separate children from their genetic kin not just by traveling geological distance, but by bending time and space. They can bring a child into the world who is wildly younger than his natural parents or siblings by cryogenically freezing them as embryos.

This happened recently in an “embryo adoption” case. A child was born after living as an embryo for 19 years in a freezer. Read more…

 

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My Next Book: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

Following text taken from MercatorNet:

Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman who was 31 when she died of cervical cancer in 1951. Cells from her tumour became the first human cells cultured continuously for use in research. HeLa cells have helped to make possible some of the most important medical advances of the past 60 years, including modern vaccines, cancer treatments, and IVF techniques. They are the most widely used human cell lines in existence. More than 300 scientific papers are published every month using HeLa cells.

There is no question about their usefulness – but were they obtained ethically? Is it ethical to continue using them?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks raises disturbing questions which transcend “usefulness”. Henrietta Lacks was poor and black. Her children, it seems, are even poorer. A doctor at Johns Hopkins removed her cells without asking her. He cultivated the cells without informing her. He distributed the cells without asking permission of her family. Companies became rich by using her cells without paying royalties. Her family only learned that their mother’s cells had been scattered around the world in 1973. Their complaints were ignored for many years – after all, they were only poor, uneducated black folks.

No one cared about the woman called Henrietta Lacks who was overdosed with radium, who died leaving five children behind, one of them an epileptic housed in a filthy, chaotic institution called The Hospital for the Negro Insane. Some people even thought that HeLa cells originated with a woman named Helen Lane. Her daughter wrote in a diary, “When that day came, and my mother died, she was Robbed of her cells and John Hopkins Hospital learned of those cells and kept it to themselfs, and gave them to who they wanted and even changed the name to HeLa cell and kept it from us for 20+ years. They say Donated. No No No Robbed Self.”

– See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/the_dark_story_of_immortality#sthash.MZPO2uLl.dpuf

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