Embryos raise legal issues

from:columbiamissourian.com

By ALLISON ROSS

November 8, 2007 | 10:42 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Although the term “adoption” implies the belief that embryos are alive, embryos do not have the same legal status as the children of live births. Currently, no state has laws that address embryo adoption specifically, and it is not legally necessary for adoptive parents to go through a traditional adoption process.

Dewey Crepeau, an adoption attorney and executive director of Columbia-based A Gift of Hope Adoptions, said the law is so unclear on embryo adoption that, in some respects, embryos can legally be considered property. Indeed, legally documenting the transfer of embryos from one person to another is similar to that of a transfer of assets.

 

“At this point, the embryo is not treated the same as a live birth, although I expect some states may start to take this into account,” he said. “It’s so new, the states have not yet caught up to deal with this.”

Some members of the scientific community and the fertility industry worry that the use of the term “adoption” for embryos may have political implications that could make embryo adoption the only legal option for leftover embryos.

Mary Beck, a law professor at MU and an adoption lawyer, said that the lack of legal precedent raises questions about who the legal parent of a child born from an embryo adoption arrangement really is.

Missouri still adheres to an old form of the Uniform Parentage Act from the 1970s, Beck said. One section of the law says that maternity is either determined by giving birth or by following other provisions of the Parentage Act. That means a woman who gestates a child by embryo transfer may be assumed to be the legal mother. However, a woman who does not establish maternity to a child who is not genetically hers could run into complications if the egg donor contested maternity. Only a parentage action will unequivocally establish maternity and remove questions of legality, Beck said.

Ron Stoddart, founder of the Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program, is also an attorney. He said he hopes the law will someday recognize that a baby born of a woman who adopted embryos is legally that woman’s adoptive child. “Right now,” he said, “it’s just presumed (that) if you give birth, it’s your child.”

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Infight over embryonic stem cell research...

from: columbiamissourian.com

In fight over embryonic stem cell research, some Christians turn to embryo adoption

Chad and Tanya Tatro adopted these embryos through the Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program, which helps match potential adoptive parents with women and couples who have frozen embryos they want to donate.

November 8, 2007 | 10:12 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Like many couples who can’t have children of their own, Chad and Tanya Tatro decided they would start a family through adoption. But they didn’t go to a local agency to begin paperwork on a domestic adoption. Nor did they decide to look into international adoption.

Instead, the Tatros turned to Ron Stoddart, executive director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, and the Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program, which helps match potential adoptive parents with women and couples who have frozen embryos they want to donate.

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Today, Chad and Tanya say they are still amazed at how God led them to the embryo adoption program as they watch their 1-year-old son Ethan toddle around the floor, his soft blond hair sticking up in all directions, his dark-blue eyes exploring the world around him.

“He’s really strong and energetic; he’s the cutest baby I’ve ever known,” Tanya Tatro said with a somewhat self-conscious laugh. “I couldn’t imagine a better gift from God.”

Embryo adoption is a growing phenomenon, especially among Christians whose faith has put them in the middle of the debates over abortion and stem-cell research. For people like the Tatros, this relatively new, controversial form of adoption is as much a moral issue as it is a personal decision. Moreover, many conservative Christians are re-focusing their energy on the culture wars in a way that emphasizes adoption and foster care as part of a solution. Embryo adoption is an option created by the explosion of in vitro fertilization, which often results in embryos that are subsequently destroyed or donated to stem-cell researchers. Stoddart, the executive director of California-based Nightlight Christian Adoptions, established Snowflakes in 1997 to give leftover frozen embryos a chance at life. A year later, the first stem cells were extracted from a human embryo, and Stoddart said the new science and the ethical debate it has generated have helped his business. “If it weren’t for that, trying to get the word out would be much harder,” he said. “Embryo adoption is more relevant when juxtaposed to the embryonic stem-cell debate.”

The transfer of embryos from one person to another has been possible for years; however, it was usually done through anonymous donations rather than a formal process involving an evaluation of prospective recipients. Stoddart thinks the transfer of an embryo from one person to another “is more than a medical procedure,” and his adoption program follows a process that reflects that thought. Rather than keeping the donor and the recipient anonymous, he wanted to open up the process so children have the option of meeting their genetic parents.

Donna Nicholson, director of Bethany Christian Services of Missouri, which does home studies for embryo donation agencies like Snowflake, said she thinks Stoddart’s process offers everyone involved more dignity than an anonymous donation. “If I had embryos to donate, I’d want to know where they are going, which is the purpose of these home studies,” she said.

Stoddart said the Snowflakes program emphasizes the value of each individual embryo’s life. That’s reflected in the program’s name — each individual embryo is frozen and unique, just like snowflakes.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

Not all Christians are comfortable with the idea of teaming up with the fertility industry. For decades, many Christians have come out against the idea of using scientific technology to create “test-tube babies,” and some are worried that paying fees to adopt embryos will encourage the industry’s growth.

“Just because we can do something scientifically doesn’t mean it’s a good idea,” said Paul Moessner, pastor at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Columbia. “Our ability to manipulate and engineer the outcome of a pregnancy is questionable. It strikes me that embryo adoption is really stretching.”

For Moessner and other critics of embryo adoption, the debate over the practice seems to be quibbling about where the line should be drawn around human understanding and human interference in reproduction.

But Stoddart argues that embryo adoption is all about putting God back in charge of procreation.

“You could say IVF is unnatural, that it goes against God’s law,” he said. “But once those embryos are created, you have a choice. You have to deal with the embryos as they are now. They exist. God wants us to acknowledge they are alive and give them a chance to be born.”

FOLLOWING GOD’S PLAN

Lise and Mark Dill of Tulsa, Okla., spent three years trying to decide what to do with their leftover embryos after creating them for in vitro fertilization. When they conceived naturally, the Dills found themselves with four embryos for which they had no use. Lise Dill said her and her husband’s faith was the most important consideration when they decided to donate the embryos to an adoptive couple.

“We did not want another child, but we wanted to do something to help our pre-babies (embryos),” she said. “Mark and I had prayed over these babies for God’s will. This is God’s will.”

Lise and Mark prayed about who would receive the embryos and, three months later, Snowflakes matched them up with a couple from Kansas City, Ann and David. In May 2007, Ann — who asked that her and her family’s last name not be used — gave birth to Reese. “The first time I held him, I was relieved and humbled,” Ann recalled. “It was totally in God’s hands. It’s humbling to realize he’s giving us this gift through Lise and Mark. We have no doubt that this is a divine plan that included us.”

The two families still keep in contact through e-mail. Ann said she is grateful the Dills had the strength and wisdom to donate their leftover embryos. Lise said she is happy that her embryos allowed another couple to begin a family. “I know how desperate the desire of your heart is to have a child,” said Lise Dill, who is the mother of five as well as a foster mother. “It warms my heart that their family is complete, that they know this joy.”

Still, Lise Dill acknowledges that parting with her embryos caused no small amount of grief. Reese, who came from the same batch of embryos that were created when the couple tried in vitro fertilization, is technically her biological child. “I think Reese is gorgeous,” she said. “In the beginning, he looked exactly like my oldest son. He looks so much like Emmaus (the Dill’s youngest daughter) now.”

AN EMOTIONAL PROCESS

Chad Tatro first heard about embryo adoption from a radio broadcast by the evangelical Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family. “When I first heard about it, I was amazed,” he said. “These embryos are children and deserve a chance at life, and I was surprised that this was now an option.”

Tanya Tatro began looking into the Snowflakes program while she was trying to become pregnant, just in case the effort failed. When, after a year and a half, the couple was told it was medically impossible that they would ever conceive a child together, they decided to try embryo adoption.

In 2002, they turned in their application to Snowflakes, submitted pictures and a letter about themselves and went through the home study process. The program then matched the Tatros with couples willing to donate embryos.

Tanya said the experience was emotionally difficult. It took seven embryo transfers from three successive donating families before Tanya became pregnant with Ethan.

Only about half of frozen embryos survive the thawing process, and about a third of those result in a successful pregnancy and birth. At one point, after three embryos were implanted in Tanya, she became pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage. In February 2006, three more embryos were implanted in Tanya, who became pregnant with twins, only to lose one of the babies at the end of the first trimester. Ethan survived, and was born in October 2006.

“Our experience was somewhat unique, because usually there’s higher success, but we had faith to keep trying,” Chad Tatro said. “We heard about some other options, like using donor sperm, but we didn’t feel that was our call. With this, the embryos are already out there. That’s the beauty of this program.”

Right now, Ethan Tatro is oblivious to the story of his birth. He is more interested in playing games and throwing things off his high chair than learning the particulars of his existence. As he gets older, Chad and Tanya hope their son will understand the faith and love that went into their decision to adopt him. They want him to know his own story.

“Hopefully,” Tanya said, “he’ll know from the beginning that he was a Snowflakes baby.”

Playing God

Stoddart argues that embryo adoption is all about putting God back in charge of procreation.

“You could say IVF is unnatural, that it goes against God’s law,” he said. “But once those embryos are created, you have a choice. You have to deal with the embryos as they are now. They exist. God wants us to acknowledge they are alive and give them a chance to be born.”

When I read "God" I usually replace it with "nature" and see if it still makes sense to me. That would mean Stoddard wants to put nature back in charge of procreation, by using an unnatural procedure with embryos that are created unnaturally. That to me sounds like he wants to say two wrongs make a right. I don't understand this God, he doesn't make sense. Given Stoddard's knowledge of what God wants, I suspect it is a God of his own making, reflecting his own confusion.

unnatural procedures

When I read "God" I usually replace it with "nature" and see if it still makes sense to me. That would mean Stoddard wants to put nature back in charge of procreation, by using an unnatural procedure with embryos that are created unnaturally. That to me sounds like he wants to say two wrongs make a right. I don't understand this God, he doesn't make sense. Given Stoddard's knowledge of what God wants, I suspect it is a God of his own making, reflecting his own confusion.

Makes total sense... well said, Neils.

 

"God Complex"

Typically this phrase is used when describing the type of doctors who think they are above all rules and laws.  (Egos run high in hospitals, you know!)

I found the following article that might explain the phrase a little better, though...   http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/fabrizio/050805

Bill Frist: Pro-life lite or God complex?

Lisa Fabrizio
August 5, 2005

Embryonic stem cell research is once again in the news via Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's revelation that he opposes President Bush on this subject. While some believe that the president erred in permitting any funding for ESCR, Mr. Frist now thinks he hasn't gone far enough. But for someone who defended the Senate's right to debate and take action in the Terri Schiavo case, the following sounds strange:

"Answering fundamental questions about human life is seldom easy. For example, to realize the promise of my own field of heart transplantation and at the same time address moral concerns introduced by new science, we had to ask the question: How do we define 'death?'"

He continues, "So when I remove the human heart from someone who is brain dead, and I place it in the chest of someone whose heart is failing to give them new life, I do so within an ethical construct that honors dignity of life and respect for the individual."

Senator Frist's words come perilously close to sounding like a Hollywood stereotype. In using these particular terms it would seem that the good doctor has acquired the God complex so prevalent among those in his profession.

His pro-life claims aside, Dr. Frist is simply echoing the left's mantra; that when trying to ensure the 'quality of life' for some, man has the right to judge that quality in others. In selling this bill of goods in the Schiavo case, the right-to-die faction and their media wing played on the emotions of the American people. Frist tries the same tack:

"If your daughter has diabetes, if your father has Parkinson's, if your sister has a spinal cord injury, your views will be swayed more powerfully than you can imagine by the hope that cure will be found in those magnificent cells, recently discovered, that today originate only in an embryo."

Here Frist, who says he believes life begins at conception, is either being disingenuous or just plain lying. Those "magnificent" or pluripotent, cells — ones that have the 'plasticity' to become different types of cells — have recently been harvested from human placenta and other adult stem cell sources.

What's more, the very types of diseases Frist uses to gin up support for ESCR are being fought today with adult cells, while whatever hope ESCR holds is decades away. Over 80 diseases and disorders are currently being treated with adult cells including Hodgkin's disease, Leukemia, juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, sickle-cell anemia and cardiac damage.

So, if adult cells can provide equal plasticity to embryonic ones, and right now instead of years hence, what's all the hubbub about? Because, in a very real way, this debate is a grisly extension of legalized abortion. Whether it's the fact that some aborted fetuses are actually used for ESCR or that, as some activists feel, it will 'soften' people's attitude toward abortion, ESCR in some ways provides a positive reason for abortion.

Another question is why proponents of ESCR lobby for federal money? No law prohibits its research, so if ESCR holds such promise why aren't private companies pouring cash into it? The answer is that most private money is already flowing into adult cell research that's already paying dividends and comes with no ethical strings attached. Add to that the billions of dollars cajoled out of some states for ESCR and the demand for federal bankrolling makes even less sense. Yet the beat goes on.

A backdoor justification for ESCR is that these embryos would be 'discarded' anyway, like so many table scraps. This shallow and distasteful argument was exposed when President Bush recently hosted a White House gathering of parents with 21 'Snowflake' Babies; formerly frozen embryos saved through the Nightlight Christian Adoptions agency. So far, 84 families have been enriched by the lives of those who ESCR backers would so cavalierly snuff out.

So back we come to the promoters of America's culture of death. With most of the media steadfastly at their side, they have been piling up victories for the last 30 years, beginning with Roe v Wade and culminating in the state-sponsored execution of an innocent Florida woman. All under the banner of protecting 'rights' and improving the 'quality of life' for those of us lucky enough to survive their tender mercies.

That Bill Frist is an unwitting dupe for this crowd in order to advance his political agenda is unclear. That he leaked his decision to the New York Times before he applied his scalpel to the president's back is, however, telling.

Whether or not he really believes that you can be both pro-life and in favor of further ESCR funding is known only to himself. But what's become evident to the rest of us is that he and other pro-life Republicans have now joined the ranks of those who openly believe that the destruction of innocent human life is, for the 'right' reason, justified.

Lisa Fabrizio is a
© Copyright 2005 by Lisa Fabrizio
http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/fabrizio/050805

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