The European Court of Human Rights was hearing the case of Adelina Parrillo versus Italy.  The case goes back to 2002, when Adelina and her husband froze five embryos for future transfer. However, her husband died one year later. Adelina lost her dream of becoming a mother and requested that the embryos be destroyed. Right at the end of 2003, Italy approved a law prohibiting experimentation with embryos and their destruction. In 2011, Adelina decided to sue the Italian state before the Strasbourg court for violating her property rights over the frozen embryos. The NGO European Centre for Law and Justice will present its opinion before the Strasbourg Court. One of their arguments is that embryos cannot be objects of property, as they are subjects of law according to Italian legislation.

Assisted reproduction ethics

This is one of many unique and eccentric cases that have arisen since assisted reproduction practices began 25 years ago. The early ethical debates have given way to social and legislative resignation caused by the inertia of the facts, emotional appeals, chrematistic impulses and biological and semantic claudications.

However, this apparent factual normality hides numerous frustrations, future threats and unresolved problems. At the centre of this prickly issue stands the ethical status of the human embryo, by-passed lazily and selfishly by scientists, bioethicists and legislators.

“Those who practice assisted reproduction or experiment with embryos, as with those who recommend certain contraceptive methods, are not unaware that, to a greater or lesser extent, these procedures imply the loss or destruction of human embryos”. Thus says pathologist and bioethicist Gonzalo Herranz in the preface of his new book “El embrión ficticio” (The fictitious embryo), in which, after extensive research, he takes apart the main biological arguments used to justify the ethical irrelevance of assisted reproduction and embryo experimentation processes, “a paradigmatic example of how a weak biology necessarily leads to misleading bioethics”.

Assisted reproduction ethics: legal tangle

Hailed in its beginning as a system for repairing infertility, the assisted reproduction debate now is whether it is ethical to choose the sex of an embryo or to discard it due to a risk of strabismus. It has become consumer medicine aimed at satisfying preferences. As well as the legal tangle that has arisen with disputes that are difficult to resolve t fairly, in vitro fertilization sometimes detracts from the sense of maternity and paternity, by putting them in a context where the contractual character prevails. And in its uncritical progress leaving thousands of “fateless” frozen embryos, an increase in the number of twins, growing eugenic temptations, surrogate mothers and mothers desperate after several fruitless cycles. Rethinking this reproductive inertia is a bioethical challenge (Diario Médico, 28-IV-2014).

Photo NY Daily News