Once again, the fans of that ethically corrosive twin of “the ends justifies the means,” consequentialism, were holding court in the mass media, as the “Today Show” revisited a two-decade old ethical outrage to declare that it was all perfectly fine after all…because it worked.
Thus does television, itself dominated by ethically-dim writers, producers and stars, corrupt the public. So here we go again:
Does the fact (if it indeed is a fact) that Osama bin Laden capture and execution was facilitated by torture make torture less ethically wrong?
Do the fortuitous results of any action that was unethical from its inception change the nature of that conduct from unethical to ethical.
Is conceiving a child solely to provide donor bone marrow to her cancer-stricken older sister ethically acceptable as long as the sister’s cancer is cured?
Absolutely not! But to listen to the “Today Show,” and revoltingly, the “Today Show’s” resident medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman, it is not only ethically acceptable but laudable. Because it worked.
Twenty years ago, Abe and Mary Ayala were desperate because Anissa, their 16-year-old daughter, had been diagnosed with leukemia. Chemotheraphy proved ineffective, and neither the Ayalas nor their son was a compatible bone marrow donor. The Ayalas had long before decided that two children were enough; Abe had a vasectomy. But then Mary came up with the idea of having another child in the hopes that it would be a bone marrow donor who could save Anissa’s life.
Remember, this was the only reason baby Marissa was conceived, and the odds of the scheme working were long in every possible way. At 42, Mary Ayala had only a 40% chance of having a successful pregnancy. Abe had to get his vasectomy reversed, and that isn’t always successful. There was also less than a one in four chance the new baby would be a compatible donor. But when Mary was seven months pregnant, doctors determined that her unborn baby was in fact a bone marrow match for her soon-to-be sister. Marissa was just 14 months old when doctors at the Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif., extracted some of her marrow and gave it to Anissa.
It worked. Hooray. Anissa is about to graduate from college. She’s cancer free. Not only that, but publicity about the dying girl and how her parents custom-made a bone marrow donor has supposedly increased the number of registered donors nationwide.
The plan, and its execution, was still absolutely wrong.
A child was conceived not out of love, or because she was wanted for whom she would become, but for what benefits her cells would confer on another daughter. A human being was exploited and used to further the welfare of another. An infant was used as a medical donor without her consent. This is not merely the “ick factor,” our reflex revulsion at strange, new uses of science. This is conduct that violates core ethical principles about human dignity. Marissa was conceived as less than a child, as a private human bone marrow bank, owned and operated by her parents. She couldn’t refuse to donate her marrow, because she was too young. Follow the principle:
- If it is ethical to create a child solely to save another, why not permit a child to be adopted for the same purpose?
- How different is it to conceive a child to give not one but both kidneys to save a failing sibling?
- How long before we accept the premise of “The Island,” with wealthy individuals paying for identical clones, kept in storage until a liver, a cornea, or heart is needed to replace part of the clone’s original?
If doctors had determined that Marissa wasn’t a match, would the Ayalas have aborted her and tried again? Why wouldn’t they? She could not serve the purpose she was manufactured for, so wouldn’t the prudent thing be to replace her as quickly as possible with a useful child? What if the unborn fetus had been able to communicate, perhaps via telepathy, that she would refuse to allow her marrow to be used? Would they abort her then, hoping for a matching and more pliable fetus?
Marissa told Meredith Viera that she wouldn’t be alive today had it not been for her sister’s need for a donor, so she’s happy about the outcome. Presumably former slaves, conceived for sale, were similarly glad to be alive. They could say, like Marissa, “Without slavery, I wouldn’t be here today!” That doesn’t extinguish the evil of slavery, however, and the fact that Marissa, who was raised knowing that she was a created not to be a child and a member of the family, but to be a means to an end, doesn’t wish she didn’t exist is not support for the unethical practice of baby farming for organ harvesting.
Ah, but ethical principles can be so easily discarded in the interest of sentiment! Dr. Snyderman said on the segment, “It crossed so many medical ethical lines. I remember thinking early on, I was very critical of this as a doctor. Then I thought, ‘Well, as a mother, would I do it?’ And then I thought, ‘Yes, I would.’ “
Then Dr. Snyderman does not believe in the medical ethics and bioethical principles she reports on. What else would she do “as a mother,” I wonder? Break the law to save her child? Lie? Rob? Maim? Torture? Kill? There is no “mother exception” to ethics. Mothers are not permitted an ethical and moral free pass to do anything at all in a child-related crisis…just so long as it works. Before they decided to conceive Alissa’s Designated Marrow Donor, whom they nick-named Marissa for short, an unrelated bone marrow donor had been found and then withdrew his consent. If she had found that she could not conceive at 42, would Mary have bought a Glock, and forced the donor at gunpoint to give up his marrow? Would Dr. Snyderman?
I guess it would all depend on whether it worked, according to the Today Show’s logic. If the donor then said, “hey, that wasn’t so bad…you know, I’m glad I could save a life!” and if Anissa survived, that would make the gunpoint procedure all right.
It would not, just as the fact that the sisters are happy and healthy doesn’t make the Ayalas’ massive violation of fairness, respect for autonomy, and human dignity conscionable. Creating a child to be an organ or bone marrow donor is absolutely unethical, which means that it isn’t an ethical option-–it can not be considered or justified. The fact that the Ayalas’ wrongful act saved one sister while creating another cannot make a wrong right.
It only makes it seductive, corrupting, and dangerous.