Children of a lesser god?
Netflix is a repository for some truly heinous programming. If television is often some kind of junk food for the intellect, then Netflix is, perhaps, the equivalent of vending machine burritos, or gas station sushi; not really good for you. Nevertheless, we all occasionally stroll in the gutter and I was recently captivated by a Netflix reality series called “Bling Empire”. This program takes place in Beverly Hills and centers around the lives of some ultra-rich Asians, inspired, I suppose, by the best-seller, “Crazy Rich Asians”. Friends, this is truly a look at the very worst attributes of the human condition and a look at what happens when uncontrolled greed, wealth and vanity, collide with consumerism, immorality and just bad behavior. Watching these people chase designer labels, plastic surgery and trendy night spots is like driving by a bad car accident; you’re not supposed to look, but you can’t help but slow down and gawk. One of the characters, the model-wife of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon (and a living embodiment of avariciousness, make up and excessive cosmetic surgery) has had fertility issues and, on one of the episodes, spoke about her cycles of in-vitro fertilization (IVF). I will spare you the details, but she had one male child from the IVF and two “embryos”, that is, unborn children, frozen, whom she named “Margo” and “London”. She then discarded those children (aka, killed the children), but later had a change of heart and was thinking about going down the IVF road again. I happened to be watching the show with my wife and I turned to her and said, “That should be illegal”. (Now, this woman’s IVF treatments were also poorly done, to the level of malpractice, but that is a topic for medical school discussion).
This show revealed the tip of the iceberg of what happens when science runs away from ethics and morality. Secular medicine has basically concluded that, what is legal, is ethical. The situation with IVF demonstrates, horrifyingly, the flaw with this thinking. In IVF, a woman’s eggs are surgically harvested and then mixed with sperm, in a laboratory, to create children, although the industry calls them embryos, or sometimes, embryonic stem cells. In the Netflix show, the character only had 3 children created, but, in most instances, clinics create many more, sometimes 30 to 50 children, who are then frozen to be either implanted and brought to term at a later date, discarded/killed, or donated for “research” (reading that last phrase, I think the room temperature just dropped about 5 degrees). Why not create just one child? Well, IVF is difficult technology and quite expensive. It is not covered by insurance, so, to make sure the customer gets their money’s worth, clinics try to fertilize multiple eggs, so that the best chance of creating viable children/embryos is achieved. It is important to note that this area of medicine is almost completely unregulated. Children are created for many reasons and infertility is the one touted most often, but some are created to be carried by surrogates, some are created to be gestated at a more “convenient” time and some are created to select for sex and other “desirable” attributes. (Is it any surprise that the Netflix character, from a culture that values boys above girls, brought the male child to term and killed the females)? The problems here are obvious, but the biggest one is the very large number of children created who are then kept frozen, sometimes for decades, while the owners (I could say parents, but that is an insult to parents), wait on bringing the child to term. If someone creates 30, or even 5 children, it is clear that they will not be brought to term, but are often saved “for a rainy day”, if the gestated child needs a sibling, becomes ill, or economic circumstances improve, for example. In the interim, they are stored in liquid nitrogen until that day comes, or doesn’t. As a consequence, there are at least 100,000, but perhaps 2-3 million children, frozen in the US, awaiting their fate. This storage is not cheap and sometimes, people stop paying. Many clinics, however, are uncomfortable with the wholesale murder of the children in their freezers, and the children simply sit there, in a secular limbo, waiting…
The case of the actress, Sofia Vergara (what is it with Hollywood people?) is particularly illustrative of the problems here. In 2012, Ms. Vergara and her paramour, Nick Loeb, wanted to have children, but she insisted on using a surrogate. In 2013, they had 2 female children created. The first failed to implant and the surrogate miscarried with the second. They had 2 more children created and frozen, but, by that time (2014, or a decade, in Hollywood years), their romance had ebbed and they separated. Loeb wanted to take the embryos and have them raised by a surrogate, but Vergara refused. In 2017, Loeb sued for custody of the children and lost. So today, these girls/children/embryos remain in suspended animation, victims of immoral science and human pride.
To quote Samuel Morse, when he paraphrased the Book of Numbers, in sending the first Morse code message and heralding in a new age of technology, “What hath God wrought”? It is very clear that the use of IVF treats human beings as property, to be used, and even killed, at the whim of the owner. Because it lives under a cloak of murky science, this is not really evident to the public eye as, after all, since the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, it has not been legal to own humans in this country. But, of course, to the “doctors” and “owners”, these are not humans; they are embryos. Nonsense. They are clearly human beings and clearly alive, victims of secular ethics.
Most IVF children are frozen at 5-6 days of age. Sometimes the owners choose to donate them to science, for “research”. They are euphemistically called “embryonic stem cells”. There is a tacit agreement among researchers in the US that these embryos can be grown for up to 14 days before being killed, the so-called, “14-day limit”. This is the law in some countries, such as the UK, South Korea and Canada, but not the US. It is simply an agreed-upon date by various committees of the National Institutes of Health. Previously, the 14-day limit was not as ethical as it seems, as scientists were not able to grow a child, outside of the womb, beyond 14 days. That has now changed and some scientists are advocating for the 14-day limit to be increased. Does anyone see the tragicomically obvious here? Scientists are debating the ethics of a 14-day limit, in a society that permits abortion on demand, up to the moment of birth in some states (back to Hollywood again). The other thing to be afraid of here, is that none of this is illegal or highly regulated in the US. There is no law that would prevent a woman in California from having hundreds of embryos created as a business venture to create humans for research, organ harvesting and the manufacture of various biopharmaceutical products. Frankly, I am surprised someone hasn’t thought of this already (maybe they have and are hiding behind “embryonic stem cell research”).
There is only one moral and ethical way to see this, and it is also the Catholic way. All human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, at the moment of conception, and are all equally worthy of life and basic human dignity until natural death. There are no “children of lesser gods” and the storage of children for convenience, use in research and other treatment as property, is evil and a grave sin. It is a perversion, not only against God and the Church, but also against secular humanity. IVF is a runaway technology that has created hundreds of thousands of children who will, most likely, perish, when someone stops paying the light bill. It should also be obvious that IVF, and other “assisted reproductive technologies”, are intrinsically evil, as they lead to human beings being treated as fashion accessories.
As I have written numerous times, the primary responsibility of a government is the protection of its citizens. To this end, IVF and other technologies, where children are created and treated as property, should be made illegal today – period – full stop. It is a moral evil and the doctors and scientists who participate in this evil are its perpetrators. Not all scientific advancement is progress, and this is one case where this advancement should be halted. This is not a Catholic argument. This is a basic human rights argument under the 14th Amendment, giving all people equal protection under the law. I know what some of you are thinking, the government does not see the unborn as “people”. I get that, but this brings us back to the argument of “what is a person” and at what point are they worthy of protection? As I have discussed before, there is no safe place to draw that line and, once one does so, it inevitably leads to the gates of Auschwitz.
And what of the children who await their fate in liquid nitrogen? Like other endangered children, they should become wards of the state and placed for gestation and adoption by willing mothers. Certainly, this is a large and complicated problem, but it is the result of a lack of ethical oversight on an abomination of science and medicine.
Children are not property or fashion accessories. They are a blessing brought to a man and a woman, from God, and all are equally worthy of human life, dignity and respect. The children who have been created through the evil of IVF should not be punished for the sins of the parents and doctors; they are innocent victims of a contemporary crime against humanity and deserve our prayer, love and support.
George Mychaskiw II, DO, FAAP, FACOP, FASA
Saint Padre Pio Institute for the Relief of Suffering
School of Osteopathic Medicine