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Ethical Issues: Edward and Susan’s Case


Ethics is a unique philosophical domain that helps to distinguish between right and wrong. It gives a clear direction in ascertaining the kind of actions that would either assist or harm conscious beings. The concept of ethical life, therefore, determines the capability of either destroying or enhancing the quality of life.

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Ethical Issues Identified In The Case Study

There are several ethical issues evident in the case study.

Is It Right To Discriminate Against Disability?

The aim of screening an embryo is to ascertain that it is free from negative traits such as disability. Edward and Susan undergo the procedure of selecting an ‘acceptable’ embryo to be implanted in Susan’s uterus. Part of the procedure was for the ‘acceptable’ embryo to undergo an intensive screening to ensure that it did not have any genetic defects that could result in disability. This action thereby becomes an ethical issue.

Is It Right To Destroy And Discard Human Embryos and Fetuses?

Before Susan was implanted with the most ‘acceptable’ embryo, the process took two years. For two years, numerous embryos and fetuses had been destroyed and discarded to identify the most appropriate embryo to be implanted in Susan’s uterus. The process, therefore, raises an ethical issue regarding the moral standing of an embryo.

Is It Right For The Mother To Undergo A Series Of Discomforts?

It is apparent that before Susan had the final embryo implanted in her uterus, she had to undergo a series of embryo transfers to enhance their survival levels. This process is said to create a lot of discomfort in the mother resulting in both mentally and physically anguish. In our case, there is a possibility that the couple did not want to undergo a similar experience when they made a pact to raise their only daughter.

Is It Right To Use A Lot Of Money To Circumvent The Power Of Natural Recreation?

It is evident that Susan and Edward had attempted to get a baby using the natural traditional way but the same had been hindered by a series of miscarriages. Turning to in vitro fertilization process means using a lot of money to get a baby. Getting a baby through artificial means could lead to the parents treating the baby as a ‘possession.’

Is It Right To Select Another Baby As Curative Measure For An Existing Sick Child?

It is the central ethical issue to be resolved because it is evident that both Edward and Susan are in a dilemma over the issue of selecting another child in a bid to cure Michelle. Being the central ethical issue, it is, therefore, best to approach and critically analyze it by applying the consequence-based model. What are the consequences of selecting another child to provide a cure for the infected baby? Is there a possibility that the selected child would be harmed in the process?

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Though they are keen on saving their only daughter Michelle, it is a worrying fact whether the process would result in harming the other baby. Would they treat her as a gift or just a mere biological object brought to this earth for purposes of curing another being? It is important to explore and consider all the pros and cons of the process to come up with a justifiable conclusion.

Research On Literature Review

This central issue has elicited a lot of heated debate by various scholars. According to Donovan and Green, the process of selecting another embryo for the sake of curing another baby amounts to a serious ethical issue as the ‘savior’ baby is likely to face numerous problems that might affect her normal life (44). What best interests do David and Edward have for the ‘savior’ child in their quest to promote the well-being of Michelle?

The ‘savior’ child, upon being created is said to have some rights to which the parents must protect (Donovan and Green 39). In our case, Edward and Susan have not been denied a right to make such decisions that concern the best interests of Michelle, but the ‘savior’ child will have to face a painful, though not harmful experience during the transplant. To what extent then should the parents be allowed to use in vitro fertilization process to create a ‘savior’ child?

Donovan and Green seem to provide a solution to this question by arguing that parents should be free to make such important decisions without any limitations (44). According to them, the best interests of the existing child should be put into consideration, and if the sick child’s interests are being threatened, then the parents have a right to risk their healthy baby.

According to Whitehouse, the issue is more challenging than what appears on the surface (19). What about the consideration of the future mental health of the unborn when the parents inform the purpose of bringing her to the world? Whitehouse argues that the parents will have an obligation to explain to the ‘savior’ child that the reason for her being created was for purposes of saving the other sibling (20). There is a possibility that the ‘savior’ child will end up resenting Michelle. However, it can further be argued that in the event the transplant process succeeds, there is a likelihood that the ‘savior’ child will assume a heroic status in the family, thus making the child feels somewhat appreciated (Whitehouse 24).

In her article, Grundy seems to be concerned with the risks involved in the process if it goes wrong (538). According to her, the process of the transplant depends on the technology and hence does not guarantee the absolute success of the procedure. What this means is that even though Edward and Susan are aware that the process is risk-free, what would happen if the technology failed to respond in their case? She, however, goes ahead to argue that the transplant rarely fails and is not harmful to the child.

Case Analysis

Both Edward and Susan are faced with a dilemma of either or not they should proceed with the procedure of selecting an embryo cell for purposes of creating another baby to cure Michelle. The stakeholder in our case study is the ‘unborn’ child while the decision-makers are the parents, in our case being Edward and Susan.

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Edward and Susan have several options regarding the issue;

  1. 1st Option – The decision-makers would opt to go ahead with the decision of selecting an embryo for the sake of bringing forth a child to cure the existing child.
  2. 2nd Option – If the decision-maker creates the ‘savior’ child, they would opt to keep to themselves the main reason for creating the child.
  3. 3rd Option – They would decide on telling the ‘savior’ child the truth about why they chose to bring her to the world in a gentle manner.
  4. 4th Option – They would completely ignore the whole procedure of in vitro fertilization and opt for other means of getting a cure for their daughter Michelle.

In the event the decision-makers choose option one, then it will deny the stakeholder his/her rights, as argued by Donovan and Green (44). It had been made clear that Susan and Edward had no prior intention of bringing forth an additional member of the family, and the decision was entirely influenced by the need of providing a cure for Michelle.

If the decision-makers choose option two, then the stakeholder will be denied his right to know the reason behind him/her being conceived. As much as it can be argued that the option would act for the best interest of the stakeholder, on one hand, it will be unfair for the stakeholder not to know the truth about his/her existence on the other.

If the decision-makers choose option three, then the stakeholder is bound to be heartbroken and might even resent the existing child. However, it is also arguable that the ‘savior’ child can respond positively to the situation if the decision-makers decide to choose this option (Whitehouse 24).

In the event the decision-makers choose option three, then the stakeholder will ultimately be denied the right to exist. By choosing this option, then Susan and Edward will be unfair to the stakeholder as they will have denied him/her that chance to see what the world has in store for him/her.

Application Of Ethical Theories To Resolve The Central Ethical Issue

It is wise to apply the consequential ethical theory and the non-consequential ethical theory to resolve our central ethical issue.

Consequential Ethical Theory: Act Utilitarianism

This type of theory looks at the consequences of an action to establish the morality of that action. It is, therefore, important as it helps the decision-maker to make a moral standing in personal choices. The first step to be taken under this theory is to identify the issue at hand. In our case, the issue is whether it is ethical to bring forth another child through in vitro fertilization to provide curative measures for an existing child.

The second step is to understand all the stakeholders likely to be affected by the decision. In our case, the stakeholders likely to be affected are the parents (Edward and Susan), the existing child (Michelle), and finally the unborn ‘savior’ child. The third step would be to determine if the decision is beneficial or harmful to the stakeholders. By choosing the action of creating the ‘savior’ child, the existing child will be given another chance of survival.

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Also, the ‘savior’ child will be given a chance to exist in the world, and all the parents will be happy to have both of their children alive. However, the same action will be for the wrong reason and is bound to subject the child to a painful experience in life. The fourth step is to weigh both the benefits and harms of the action. In our case, it is evident that the benefits outweigh the harmful consequences, and for this reason, it can be concluded that the decision to create a ‘savior’ baby is morally correct.

Non-Consequential Ethical Theory: Natural Right Theory

This theory emphasizes the need to respect and uphold the rights of another being. The key principle proposed by John Locke is the ability to refrain from any acts of violation of another being’s rights. The first step is to evaluate and consider all the possible options. In our case, the options would be to proceed with the procedure of creating another child for purposes of saving an existing one, to refrain from revealing to the ‘savior’ child the truth, to gently tell the ‘savior’ child the truth about the reason of his/her existence and finally, to decide on not going ahead with the process and exposing their existing child to more threatening situations. The second step is eliminating the options that seem to violate another being’s rights.

The second option of refraining to tell the ‘savior’ child the truth would violate his right of knowing the reason for his/her existence and the last option should also be eliminated as it not only violates the right of life to the existing child but also the unborn child. The third step would be to determine whether the remaining options have any positive impact as regards the rights of the stakeholders. In our case, the remaining options would help save a situation without necessarily having to violate any other being’s rights. The unborn child will eventually feel appreciated if treated as a hero. It will, therefore, decide to be morally permissible.

Decision-Making And Evaluation

The most ethical option that can be upheld is for both Susan and Edward to select an embryo for the sake of creating another baby to foster the curative measure for Michelle. Based on the two theories discussed above, the decision will act for the better good of all the stakeholders and eventually bring happiness to all of them. The procedure will not pose any risk to the unborn baby but will help save a life in the process (Grundy 59).

However, this option has been challenged. The first argument is that the option will not act in the best interest of the unborn child. Its argument can, however, be countered in the sense that the right to life of the existing child will be at stake, and by bringing forth the other child, both of them will be accorded with the most natural gift of enjoying life. The other challenging argument is the fact that the unborn child is likely to be faced with certain risks associated with the transfer.

However, though this argument seems valid, the process is not harmful to the child and therefore faces very minimal risks to the same effect. Thirdly, another strong argument regards the future mental health concerns of the unborn if he/she learns the truth about the purpose of his/her existence. It should be noted that the parents will not segregate the ‘savior’ baby, and breaking the news gently to the baby will make him/her appear more of a heroic than an object.

Reflection And Conclusion

The critical thinking process is very important in making day-to-day decisions. The very important lesson derived from this assignment is the ability to think widely and outside the box regarding a particular situation. The problem-solving process can be improved by applying and evaluating external factors of a particular situation and making use of various principles and values that are necessary to facilitate and hasten the critical thinking process.

Works Cited

Donovan, Aine and Green, Ronald. The Human Genome Project in College Curriculum: Ethical Issues and Practical Strategies, New England: Dartmouth College Press, 2008. Print.

Grundy, Maggie. Nursing in Haematological Oncology, China: Harcourt Publishers Limited, 2006. Print.

Whitehouse, Beth. The Match: Savior Siblings and one Family’s Battle to Heal Their Daughter, New York: Beacon Press, 2010. Print.

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