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Hastings Center News

The Ethics of Making Babies

On April 6-7, The Hastings Center co-sponsored “The Ethics of ‘Making Babies,’” Harvard Medical School’s Annual Bioethics Conference, which explored the ethical and legal issues raised by assisted reproductive technologies.  Josephine Johnston, director of research and a research scholar at The Hastings Center, spoke on the future of reproductive autonomy. Zachary Shapiro, presidential scholar of law at The Hastings Center, highlighted the regulatory and ethical frameworks surrounding “savior siblings.”

Johnston examined the history of reproductive autonomy and its influence on bioethical scholarship related to reproductive medicine. Looking to the future, she considered the potential impact of gene editing and noninvasive prenatal testing on the autonomy of prospective parents. Johnston suggested that their reproductive freedom is best preserved if they can exercise meaningful choice and control when confronted with these emerging technologies.

Shapiro explored regulatory and ethical issues related to “savior siblings” in his poster presentation. The term savior siblings refers to the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis and other forms of in vitro fertilization to create a sibling for a terminally ill child for the purpose of helping to treat or cure the child. The attempted treatment would come from biological material such as bone marrow or blood drawn from the savior sibling. Considering existing regulatory structures in the United States and United Kingdom, Shapiro discussed the potential harms and benefits of creating savior siblings.