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Thursday, 23 December, 1999, 14:41 GMT
Life after death - should families decide?

The body that oversees fertility clinics in the UK has put a stop to two controversial attempts to make babies out of frozen eggs and sperm.

In the first they said it was too risky to allow a woman to use her own frozen eggs, even though other countries allow it - and in the other, a mother and father were told it was unethical to bring in a woman to act as surrogate to their dead son's child.

In a separate case, a court ruled that a 28-year-old Down's Syndrome man should not be sterilised despite the wishes of his mother.

Has the state got too much control over what we do with our bodies - or are families wrong when they believe they have a right to create, or not, a child no matter what? Is there too much interference in nature or should we take advantage of scientific developments?

I think that each person should have a living will and tell relatives what decisions to make about that. The family should then respect the person's wishes when executing those decisions.
Jeff, USA

The idea of "souvenir" babies sickens me. If these people want to go give a child a loving caring home, why don't they adopt / foster one. There are many children in the UK who could greatly benefit from the offer of a stable loving home.
Paul, UK

Families should do everything they can do to save life. To decide that it is somebody's time to go - is to play God. That is wrong.
Dave Adams, USA

The government has no right to control what we do to our bodies. Whether that being having a surrogate baby, using frozen egg cells or using drugs. A person's body is theirs to do with as they wish and no government/ church has a right to control that
Vishal Vashisht, UK

I think it is inhumane to save sperm from a dead person. We should think about the baby, what is the use of giving birth to a baby knowing his father is already dead. This is ridiculous, once again we are treating human's as cattle.
Joan Margaret Cafane, France

We all deserve the opportunity to keep our genes alive as long as possible - this is a basic human instinct. It is only the self-righteous who deem it inappropriate to do so (usually in the name of morals), and the key weapon of the self-righteous is the liberal use of the work "selfish" wherever possible. To me, selfishness is denying someone what he or she may want even though the effect of allowing it is minimal to you. The parents of the dead man should get their way in this matter to enable their genes to continue. We all deserve the chance to have a future beyond our own death.
Marty McAdder, UK

No woman ever died of infertility and no people ever died from not being grandparents. This is ghoulish selfishness and I prefer to put my confidence in nature rather than the scientists. One wonders what is next?
Chris Klein, UK

Despite the fact that the medical technologies exist to make this possible, it should be realised that this is human life we are talking about, and a child created this way ultimately could have emotional and psychological difficulties on learning where they came from, and why they were created.
Lesley, UK

As usual we have not been given all the facts. In the case of the woman whose eggs were frozen she should be allowed to use them. The parents who want a grandchild should be asking themselves why? Their son can never be replaced. The most important thing to remember is: just because we can, doesn't mean we should!
Lynda Cain, England

I think Alistair has got it exactly right. Nobody has a RIGHT to have a child. They are a gift but also a responsibility. As for couples wanting a grandchild I have severe misgivings about that. After all, who will look after the child? It's grandparents? Statistically, how long will they be alive or capable of so doing? Excepting accidents, children are born as a result of a selfish decision ("I/we want a child.") which is as it should be however, I feel this couple should ask themselves seriously why they want a child. I can't believe this has been thoroughly thought through.
Mark Headey, UK

It seems to me that, in the field of fertility treatment and embryology generally, scientific possibility is being elevated into "right". The ethical justification for this seems doubtful to say the least. What benefit does society as a whole derive from providing the infertile with treatment to allow them to bear the children nature has denied them? What benefit to society from disappointed would-be grandparents being allowed to manufacture children to dead fathers? (And all this in an overcrowded country and planet.) It is perfectly possible for the state to make me a rich man by simply giving me large amounts of money. I should certainly like this; but can it be said I have a "right" to it. I think not. "Good" for the individual does not necessarily represent a social good, and the whole Western system of ethics (particularly as represented in the common law) is dependent on the Aristotelian principle of the individual having the right to do that which is good for the community.
Richard Austen-Baker, England

Children have a right to be born not manufactured. These methods take enormous risks with the long term health & stability of children
Paul Atkin, UK

These people are being selfish. They want a replacement for the son that they have lost, but to attempt to create a child where one may never have been created is unethical and unnatural. It is a tragic loss, but it cannot be replaced by the scientific creation of another when there are no loving parents involved.
Moira, Scotland

If a woman can choose to have her eggs taken out and frozen, it seems unfair to deny her the right to have them put back in and used, unless there are serious concerns for her health; even so, an already pregnant woman would not be forced to get rid of her foetus if it was a threat to her life. Every woman has a right to choose how to use her fertility.
Lisa, Brit in Belgium

The couple who want grandchildren by their dead son's sperm are being selfish. No one has the RIGHT to grandchildren. The welfare of the child must be paramount - not the wishes of selfish relatives.
Alister McClure, GB

I think it is a wonderful thing that this is possible, and that bereaved women should be allowed to do it, subject to the same kind of checks as a person has to go through when adopting a child. It is important to make sure that the child would be well looked after.
Dan Norcott, England

While we pass into a new Millennium we should not forget that but a few decades ago the Nazis experimented with just this sort of human-engineering. We are not just quantities of meat - even after our death. Such tampering displays the grossest lack of respect for us as individuals by the state...We see fit to be rightly shocked at the thought of GM food - we should neither accept the GM human.
Steve Beat, UK

I believe that the dead should be allowed to rest in peace. Lets ask ourselves one question: is it really possible to have the same person that we loved and later lost?
Hema Lodhia, United Arab Emirates

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See also:
20 Dec 99 |  Health
Fight for dead man's sperm
20 Dec 99 |  Health
Sperm and eggs: the legal background
20 Dec 99 |  Health
Down's sterilisation plea turned down
16 Dec 99 |  Health
Woman battles test-tube ruling

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