Juan Masia, SJ (Professor at Sophia University, Tokyo)
The donation of genetic material has created quite a few ethical problems, for instance, is it ethical to choose the characteristics of the child to be born? Is it ethical to receive payment for the donation of gametes? Who is to be considered the parent of the future child? What are the possible effects on the welfare of the future child? Is it ethically acceptable paying people for their body parts (e.g. organs) or body product (blood)? Would excessive inducement to donate gametes possibly exploit the less well off in society, since it is likely that they should be the ones to respond to financial inducement?
But, in my view the main ethical problem behind these questions is the fact that life is considered more and more as a mere commodity.
More than 30,000 babies a year are born by artificial insemination by donor (AID) in USA. Egg donation is more complicated, unpleasant and risky for the donor, but it is also becoming more usual.
According to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, (HFEA: a body set up in the United Kingdom by the 1990 Human Fertilization and Embryology Act to oversee and regulate new developments in artificial reproductive technology), altruistic donation is to be encouraged; donors of gametes should not receive any payment over and above a minimal compensation for time and inconvenience. The reason is that payment might have the effect of encouraging inappropriate motivation on the part of the donors, for instance, seeking merely financial benefit. In the United Kingdom, the donors of sperm are paid about 15 pounds. In Spain, they are paid 10,000 pesetas for sperm and 10,0000 for eggs.
Recently, with the development of Internet, the sale of gametes over the web net has spread, and donors can sell their wares on the open market to the highest bidder. Actually, the sale and "donation" of eggs and sperm are actually becoming a business. People are paying up to $150,000 to buy eggs or sperm from supermodels. One sperm bank offers sperm donations from only scientists with an I.Q. of over 135. Healthy, young, Ivy-league donors are being offered up to $50,000 for their "donations." What is evolving from this new trend is a market in which people are competing to get the best genes and those on the other end are trying to make the most money. It is said that there is a shortage of gametes, particularly oocytes. There are different ways of encouraging donation, i. e. to encourage women to donate eggs they are often given free treatment or free sterilization in exchange for their spare eggs. Sometimes ova are harvested at the same time that a tubular ligation is performed.
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But, let us pay attention to the use of these words: "shortage", "spare", "bid", "selling"... Does not the mere use of these expressions point out toward a view of life as a mere commodity? We should consider the fact that the donors are not just selling body products, but their own genetic material.

There is another problem. Should gamete donors be selected to enhance the characteristics of offspring? Recipients might want to select donors who are intelligent or beautiful. In fact, selection for superior characteristics has been part of the practice of sperm donation. Some parents are looking for ways to produce smarter and more attractive children. As there has been ethical discussion about selling organs for transplant, there has been interest to consider the ethics of selling gametes. But, what happens if the purchasers of the gamete finds that the final product does not meet expectations. Who is to be held responsible and what will be the attitude of the parents about the child? What about the children who are created from the super models? If they are not pretty enough or glamorous when they grow up, will the parents be upset?
What if the child from the sperm of the scientist ends up having mental disabilities or an IQ below average? Will those parents be upset and demand compensation? Let us not forget also that even if someone is genetically inclined to be more intelligent, that person may not, in fact, become so intelligent. The result depends not only on "nature", but also on "nurture".
To put it in one word, the danger is that children will be considered as mere commodities. Children are a miracle of nature and parents should love their children for who they are, unconditionally. Each person is precious and priceless. In Japanese we have an expression for that: "kakegae no nai". But is not this expression becoming meaningless nowadays? Should not we stop placing a monetary value on genes, children, and life?
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According to a survey carried on in 1988 in the U.S.A., 72 percent of physicians who provided artificial insemination were willing to select donor characteristics to recipient specifications; 90 percent would match for height; 82 percent for body type; 57 percent for IQ; 45 percent for special abilities, i.e., athletic skills. (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Artificial Insemination: Practice in the United States: Summary of a 1987 Survey, Washington D. C. Government Printing Office, 1988, p.40-73).
It has also been pointed out that there are many orphans who need to be taken care of. There are many unwanted children that need to be adopted by families. Why spend thousands of dollars on eggs or sperm instead of on adopting and raising a child who really needs a home?
Let us consider, finally, as a reference the opinion of two bio-ethicists. Paul Lauritzen says: "Once procreation is separated from sexual intercourse, it is difficult not to treat the process of procreation as the production of an object to which one has the right as a producer. It is difficult under these circumstances to place the end above the means. Effectiveness in accomplishing one's goal can easily become the sole criterion by which decisions are made" ("What Price Parenthood?" Hastings Center Report 20, March-April 1990, p. 38-46).
G. C. Mailaender writes: "We will doubt whether "quality control" of our offspring can express a commitment to human equality that envisions the child not as a product we have made but as one like us in dignity... The transformation of procreation into reproduction involves us in new ways of thinking about human life. Perhaps most dangerous is the possibility that we will find it more difficult to think of the child as one who is equal in dignity to those who make it"(Body, Soul and Bio-ethics" (University of Notre Dame Press, 1995, p. 80-88)

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