Mother freezes eggs for infertile daughter
Progress Educational Trust24 April 2007
A Canadian woman has frozen her eggs in the hope that her daughter may use them in later life. Lawyer Melanie Bolvin's decision has instigated a fierce ethical debate on the nature of egg donation, particularly as the result could mean that her daughter, Flavie, will one day give birth to a child who would also be her sister.
Ms Bolvin's daughter has Turner syndrome, a chromosomal condition that means she is infertile. Although Flavie is only seven years old, Ms Bolvin has decided to embark on the process, facilitated by McGill University researchers, that she herself admits raises complex ethical questions. Ms Bolvin stated, 'After a year of reflection, we came to the conclusion that we could do this'. She continued, 'if my child had needed a kidney I would have given her one and no one would have questioned it. In this case it is a gamete'.
Medical ethicists have spoken out on both sides of the argument, with concerns raised that it would mean 'scrambling' the generations, as Ms Bolvin would become simultaneously mother and grandmother, should her daughter go ahead with a pregnancy using the donated eggs. Margaret Somerville, who leads the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, stated that the decision had failed to take account of the future views of the unborn child. Somerville said, 'We have to think about what we are doing when we are running around nature. Giving birth to your own sister completely screws up the normal transition of life'.
Others have supported Ms Bolvin's decision, while allowing that the move was not without ethical considerations. Wayne Sumner, philosophy professor and moral scholar from the University of Toronto, expressed the view that if the arrangement was something that the mother and daughter decided they wished to pursue one day, society should find very good reasons not to allow it. Mr Sumner said, 'I don't see it as all that significant - the scrambling of generations. I don't have concerns about whether it's natural or normal. It is a little odd for [Bovin], who will have both a child and a grandchild simultaneously, but people wrap their heads around these things'.
Ms Bolvin said that she had discussed the ethical and emotional implications with her family, stressing that her daughter was under no obligation to use the eggs, but that she had wanted to give her another option. Ms Bolvin said that while her daughter may genetically be giving birth to her own sister, as the person who raised and educated the child, she would be the real mother.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.