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End-of-Life and New Reproductive Technologies

by Kamille Williams
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There are two issues which are currently in the public domain which could benefit from airing different perspectives. The first concerns “End-of- Life” and the second “New Reproductive Technologies”

End-of-Life: The headline of a newspaper report reads: “With Mandela, end-of-life care dilemmas magnified”. While the whole world is following the progress of Nelson Mandela’s and the care given during his stay at hospital, it brings to the fore the issues of human dignity and autonomy and right to self-determination.

The report states that the choice “to let go with little medical interference” or “to seek aggressive treatment” has been complicated by Mandela’s status as a “respected global figure” It further states that in Africa while death is sad, for those who past the age of 60, friends and family “celebrate to honour a life well-lived” and that “taking extraordinary measures to keep that person alive would be considered dishonorable” and could be “quite painful..because those are not the last memories you want to have for someone with such an exemplary life”

Which takes precedence: Respect for Cultural traditions; doing all possible to keep him comfortable and alive; or Respect for the individual’s choice for self-determination?

New Reproductive Technologies: This concerns the news Report that the UK may “okay creating babies with DNA from 3 people” in instances when the mother has faulty mitochondria which can pass on defects resulting ‘in such diseases as muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, heart problems and mental retardation” In Britain the statistic is that one in 200 children may inherit a mitochondrial disorder. The technique involves taking the desirable genetic material from the parent egg and transferring it to a donor egg or embryo which has only the missing parental DNA. It is labeled ‘the creation of a three-parent baby”, since it will be the product of DNA from three individuals. While it will be a method to stop these diseases from being passed on and was supported through public consultations, the “Christian Medical fellowship” said the techniques were unethical in the following statement: ‘we do not consider that the hunt for ‘therapies” that might prevent a small number of disabled children (with mitochondrial disease) being born justifies the destruction of hundreds if not thousands of embryonic human lives” the group also questioned the ‘safety of the techniques’.

What further information/arguments may help to arrive at a decision to either allow or put a moratorium on this procedure?

submitted by Grace Sirju-Charran

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