Interesting post at Left2Right on embryo donation. J David Velleman argues that the practise of passing on excess embryos from IVF to other infertile couples is morally problematic. In essence, adoption entails some distressful impact upon life of the child (identity crises and so on) and should the number of kids being adopted should be kept low; creating a new child to be adopted rather than taking one that already needs to be conflicts with this premise. Of course, all sorts of (highbrow) tonguelashing ensues in the comments. Velleman’s later expansion is interesting:
An important piece of background to my argument is what moral philosophers call the “non-identity problem”, which is a problem in the ethics of procreation. Here is how the non-identity problem arises.
Suppose that a woman is taking a medication that is known to cause birth defects: if she becomes pregnant while taking the medication, her child will be born disabled. We ordinarily think that this woman is under an obligation not to become pregnant until she has finished taking the medication and the danger has passed. If she is careless and becomes pregnant with a disabled child, we will think that she is blameworthy. And if the woman positively tries to become pregnant while taking the medication, and does so for the express purpose of bearing a disabled child — why, we would consider her a monster.
Now consider what this latter woman — this supposed monster — might say in her own defense:
Yes, I have purposely conceived a child who will be born disabled. But the vast majority of people who are born disabled go on to live happy and rewarding lives. There are people far more seriously disabled than my child will be, and they are still grateful for having been born. What’s more, my child will not have any grievance against me for conceiving him while I was taking the medication. If I had waited until the following month, when I was no longer taking the medication, I would have conceived a different child — and this child would never have been born at all! There is no way that I could have conceived this same child without conceiving him disabled. So I have done nothing wrong: I am giving the gift of life to a child who will be grateful to have received it, and my child will not wish that I had given that gift to a different, able-bodied child instead. If my child will have no grievance against me, how can you?
Should we be persuaded by this woman’s argument? Of course not.
Read it all y’all.