Twin Killings

Haggling over Price

I know there are plenty of bioethicists who believe in the sanctity of life. Tragically, as one disturbing trend shows, there are also plenty who don’t.

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Chuck  Colson

As my late good friend Richard John Neuhaus once wrote, “for the most part, bioethicists are in the business of issuing permission slips for whatever the technicians want to do.”

A less charitable friend of his put it more bluntly: “a bioethicist is to ethics what a [prostitute] is to sex.” A recent article in the New York Times shows why one could be so harsh.

The story is about the rising number of what are euphemistically called “twin reductions”: Women who are carrying twins decide to kill one of their unborn children while allowing its sibling to live.

This demonic procedure was the unintended but not unforeseeable consequence of reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization. Women undergoing IVF often found themselves carrying four, five, and even six children at a time.

The medical response was to “reduce” the number of fetuses to a more “manageable number.” “Reducing” in that case meant a shot of potassium chloride to the heart of one of the three-month old fetuses.

And do I have to tell you that the definition of what’s “manageable” has shrunk over the years? In a blink of an eye, reducing meant from going from whatever number of children there were to twins.

At this point, bioethicists became uneasy: Dr. Mark Evans, a pioneer of the “reduction” procedure, helped draft guidelines for the industry. According to the guidelines, “most reductions below twins violated ethical principles.” Evans wrote that performing these reductions turned doctors into “technicians to our patients’ desires.”

Do I have to tell you that Evans himself now performs twin reductions? He justified his reversal by saying that he understood why “women didn’t want to be in their 60s worrying about two tempestuous teenagers or two college-tuition bills.”

In other words, as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat noted, Evans had become a technician to his patients’ desires.

Douthat spelled out why none of us should be surprised at either Evans’ reversal or the growth of “twin reduction.” What he calls “liberal bioethics” is always “adapting” to meet patients’ desires. What was unacceptable yesterday will be “understandable” tomorrow. Bioethicists acknowledge our concerns and promise that they will draw the line tomorrow. But, as Douthat says, “tomorrow never comes.”

That’s because, outside the Christian view that all human life is sacred, they have no real basis on which to draw that line. For all the talk about “human dignity,” this brings to mind a joke told by Winston Churchill: a woman asked if she would sleep with a man for 5 million pounds, replies “yes.” When asked if she would do it for 5 pounds, she replies, “What kind of woman do you think I am?” to which the man replies, “we’ve already established that, now we're just haggling over price.”

Bioethicists have already conceded that killing an unborn child for reasons that have nothing to do with saving the mother’s life or even her health is acceptable. They’ve given their sanction to medical procedures that make this procedure inevitable. Now they are haggling over details: how patients’ desires should be worded before they write the permission slip.

Maybe Neuhaus’ friend was right, after all.

Further Reading and Information

The Failure of Liberal Bioethics
Ross Douthat | New York Times | August 17, 2011

Natural Revulsion
Chuck Colson | Two-Minute Warning | September 21, 2011


Twin Killings blog entry
Responding to the entry, "Twin Killings: Haggling Over Price".
Admittedly, this entire issue is very sticky ground. But, lest we throw all the vitriol only on those who choose to reduce multiple pregnancies to "a manageable level" (humans weren't designed to bear "litters" anyway), just as much blame should be thrown on those who jump into fertility treatments in an effort to have their own biological child at any cost.

Neither approach is good, because the use of one leads to the dilemma of the other. The comments of "Been there" underscores this problem. The headlines generated by the adventures of "Octomom" in California underscores this problem in double red lines. The Duggar family with their "19 and counting" idiocy, basing their uber-productivity (though not with fertility treatments) on an erroneous exegesis of Scripture, reduces the nobility of childbearing and rearing to a ridiculous farce, and gives the Christian-viewing public yet another avenue for derision.

God placed us on Earth to be prayerful and thoughtful managers of his creation, and we haven't done that; humans usually vacillate between polar opposites in opinions, and seem to have an aversion to finding a balanced middle ground.

Seems to me that even a little THINKING would be good; a lot more, even better. Instead of spending a fortune on fertility treatments, spend it on one of those orphaned babes who need loving, caring parents.
It is such a shame that we have people in our society that would ever want to do this. Putting selfish convenience and possible financial pressures above the sanctity of human life is just downright despicable.
Been there
My wife and I used fertility treatments to conceive our second and third child. When we started the process with our second child we made it very clear that we would not reduce a multiple pregnancy. After injection of fertility drugs, we were blessed with one large follicle. With everything looking good, we conceived our second child naturally and were blessed with a healthy baby boy. After a few years, we decided to repeat the process. Again we made it clear that we would not reduce a multiple pregnancy. We had three follicles that looked good. The doctor decided to use insemination to increase the chance of pregnancy. We again found ourselves blessed with a pregnancy. This time my wife had high hormone levels, so we new there was a possibility of multiples. We went to the fertility clinic, where a lab technician did the ultra sound and showed us three babies. Identical twins and another single child. Imagine sitting in a doctors office, quite nervous, scared and somewhat excited waiting for a doctor to come in to see us. We were expecting his first words to be congratulations, but much to our horror, his first words were that this is not a good thing and that there is a procedure called selective reduction and that he recommended it. In way it was a blessing, because my wife took on his challenge and 36 weeks later gave birth to three healthy baby boys. They are four years old now, and I could not imagine life without them.