On Breaking the Curse of Death

Commodifying Children in Hopes of Conquering Death is a Non-Starter

A California couple, Jason and Melissa Diaz, are suing HRC fertility clinic over claims that they were misled regarding the genetic condition of their implanted embryo. The couple chose to pursue IVF with the hopes of genetically testing and eliminating embryos with the breast cancer and stomach cancer genes carried by each of them through the preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) process. The couple initially created five embryos. Three of them were outright discarded for carrying the genes. The fourth was transferred and unfortunately miscarried, and they were left with one male embryo. They transferred the male embryo since they were told the child was negative for the stomach cancer gene.

Upon their son’s birth, Jason’s family rejoiced that the “curse” of the genetic mutation, which had “doomed other family members to cancer and early death,” had been eliminated from the family line. However, the IVF coordinator had misinterpreted the results and had actually transferred an embryo positive for the stomach cancer gene, leaving the couple distraught over the potential health struggles their son will face.

Ethical Problems

While it is understandable to want your child to avoid suffering, the Diazes intentionally eliminated any chance at life for their three other embryonic children through the use of eugenic screening procedures. Preimplantation genetic screenings not only test for and “weed out” those embryonic human beings who carry inherited genetic diseases, but embryos are also tested for disabilities such as Down Syndrome, perpetuating a stereotype in our society that those with disabilities aren’t worthy of living.

Not only do PGD tests allow for “designer babies” with no known disabilities and diseases, but pursuers of IVF can also choose which children to transfer based on sex and eye color. The lucky embryos who are deemed worthy of transfer are then subjected to the trial and error that’s inherent in the transfer process in hopes that one child will successfully implant in the mother’s uterus. Those “leftover” embryos who aren’t transferred are either experimented on and ultimately destroyed through scientific research, or condemned to the indefinite cryopreservation that is already the fate of more than a million embryonic persons. If the commissioning parents decide after transfer that too many embryos have implanted, or if any of the babies are found to have abnormalities, a reduction may be performed – or rather, abortion(s) – until only the desired number and quality remain. All of these facets contribute to the ever-expanding, child-commodifying multi-billion-dollar fertility industry.

Embracing Intrinsically Immoral Acts

In trying to break the “curse” of genetic disorders through preimplantation genetic screenings, the Diazes performed an inherently immoral act, the taking of innocent human life. Although they did so in hopes of bringing about a good effect, in doing so, they were not eliminating the “curse” but rather they embraced and lived in the consequences of the fall, instead of rising above it.

The curse of death (and by extension the curse of diseases such as cancer) has already been overcome by Christ, who overcame death for our sake. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware states:

The original sin of man, his turning from God-centeredness to self-centeredness, meant first and foremost that he no longer looked upon the world and other human beings in a eucharistic way, as a sacrament of communion with God. He ceased to regard them as a gift, to be offered back in thanksgiving to the Giver, and he began to treat them as his own possession, to be grasped, exploited and devoured…he no longer saw other persons and things as they are in themselves and in God, and he saw them only in terms of the pleasure and satisfaction which they could give to him. And the result of this was that he was caught in the vicious circle of his own lust, which grew more hungry the more it was gratified…”

Preimplantation genetic screenings certainly focus on the self-centered view that no longer looks upon human life as a gift, but treats embryonic human beings as one’s “own possession, to be grasped, exploited and devoured.” These embryos are no longer viewed as humans made in the image of God; rather, they are viewed “only in terms of the pleasure and satisfaction which they could give.”

Christ broke the curse of death by coming to give abundant, eternal life, but the Diaz family ironically made medical science into a distorted version of God. Instead of exhibiting the voluntary, self-sacrificial love that Christ emulated through his suffering on the cross, the IVF process asks that children be involuntarily sacrificed to satisfy the desires of those who should be their greatest protectors – their parents. Indeed, trying to achieve one healthy child still only postpones death; it does not overcome death as Christ did. In reality, we can’t avoid suffering, and we certainly can’t avoid suffering by doing the opposite of what Christ did for us. We can only strive to be conduits of Christ’s resurrected humanity by embracing the one who is life, not death.

Embracing Christlikeness

We can’t become what we are meant to be in Christ – human beings “created for fellowship with the Holy Trinity, called to advance in love from the divine image to the divine likeness” – by embracing intrinsically immoral acts and calling that “good.” We can’t fully embrace being people freed from our diseased state of sin – ones who are now able to rise above our uncontrollable animalistic natures and follow him in self-sacrificial love – when we are pursuing acts that intentionally cause the death of his precious creation.

is External Affairs Liaison and contributing writer for the children’s rights organization Them Before Us. She has a master’s degree in Mental Health and Wellness and is working toward graduate certificates in Trauma-Informed Practice and Catholic Bioethics. She seeks to spread truth regarding the consequences of dismantling the foundational familial structure.

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