Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Reproductive Ethics in Japan: Frozen Sperm

There have been three recent court cases here in Japan concerning control and use of sperm of men who have died. In the most recent case, a woman used in vitro fertilization after her husband died and had a baby, and had asked the courts to recognize her deceased husband as the father. The courts refused. The three cases differ in length of time since the death, the details of the actual sperm storage contract, and whether the husband had agreed to a poshumous birth.

This is a complex issue. But it isn't exactly alone in reproductive issues. Who has the right to terminate a pregnancy, is it a decision of the woman alone? What rights do sperm donors have with respect to their children, and what responsibilities? Genetic testing is opening all sorts of ethical issues, from gender selection to genetic illnesses; before long it may be possible to take a stab at the baby's adult height and other characteristics, allowing the parents access to a very crude form of genetic engineering. Science recently ran an article on the questionable success of prenatal surgery.

The world is changing rapidly, and the laws and mores of society aren't keeping pace. We should all do a lot of reading and thinking about these topics.

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