PHENOMENOLOGY AND EMBRYO ETHICS
In this article, a phenomenological ontology concerning in vitro embryos is developed and defended, exploring the practical implications for reproductive medical technologies. This phenomenological alternative, in comparison with other positions in bioethics, firmly takes on-board the dangers of reification of human life by advancements of medical science. The in vitro embryo is clearly not a human person, but neither is it a lump of human cells, merely. The phenomenologist should consider the embryo to be a potential human person, but also acknowledge the changes in basic ontology brought about by medical technologies when producing embryos in the laboratory. In vitro embryos, however they are made, still have a significant symbolic standing that demands respect on the strength of their biological potentiality. Such a standing could be reflected in practice by limiting the use of IVF embryos to fields of research that seek cures for severe human diseases and which cannot be pursued by other means, and by forbidding the buying and selling of human embryos. Regarding the future possibilities of not only selecting but also manipulating the genes of embryos in IVF by way of CRISPR/Cas and other technologies, the phenomenological view stresses that such interventions should not move beyond de-selecting or deleting genes that carry severe risks for developing painful and debilitating diseases. Abstaining from choosing the characteristics of children-to-be beyond the measures taken to save them from considerable, unnecessary suffering is ultimately a matter of avoiding to instrumentalize the practice of procreation. In contrast to an order-and-delivery service, the relationship between parents and their children should be thought of as an empathic and dialogic relation. At stake in this relation is not only the understanding and avoidance of unnecessary suffering but also the possibilities of human ourishing. Child-rearing should respond to the personal characteristics that a child, from birth onwards, already embodies and expresses, and continually support and guide the child’s possibilities to develop these characteristics in a successful way.
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