A recent article from The New York Times considers the ethical and legal implications of this new technology if it is applied to humans. One of the most likely situations that could arise would be using the artificial wombs for premature infants. An artificial womb could eliminate or address many of the issues and risks that face premature infants in incubators such as undeveloped lungs and neurodevelopmental challenges, and could be a life-saving technology for many. However, artificial wombs would not allow for contact or interaction between parents and infants that can be facilitated with incubators, which is something that is extremely beneficial for both the parents and the infant emotionally and physically.
“When I started my Ph.D. looking into the ethics of artificial wombs in 2009, several people told me that it was purely science fiction, and not anything that will happen anytime soon,” stated Dr. Elizabeth Yuko, Health & Sex Editor for SheKnows Media. She continued, “While the recent trials were conducted on lambs, not humans, the rapid evolution of reproductive technology means ethicists have to stay a few steps ahead of clinical practice.”
Dr. Yuko’s research interests include sexual health and reproductive ethics, human enhancement and research ethics. She adds that she is “thankful to have had the opportunity to address some of these early ethical issues in The New York Times.”
On Tuesday it was reported that the first live birth resulting from mitochondrial donation was born in New York to a Jordanian couple. According to The New York Times, the fertility procedure – also referred to as “3-parent IVF” – was performed at a Mexican clinic and the baby is a healthy boy.
The purpose of a donor for this couple was to “overcome flaws in a parent’s mitochondria that can cause grave illnesses in babies.” Thus, the DNA from the egg of the healthy mother who has the mutation, is placed in the egg of a healthy donor after her nuclear DNA is removed. It is important to understand that the mitochondria of a cell are completely separate entities from DNA that determines inheritance.
The Jordanian couple took their chances with the procedure as they had lost two other children to the disease, one at age 6 and the other at 8 months. Dr. John Zhang performed the procedure at the New Hope Fertility Center’s clinic in Mexico as it is “effectively banned” in the United States, though it has been legal in the United Kingdom since last year.
The child is now 5 months old and healthy with normal mitochondria, as was first reported by New Scientistmagazine.
As the 2016 presidential election approaches, psychologists are gaining media attention by diagnosing candidates as having personality disorders, especially for the Republican nominee. But the public should question whether or not offering these diagnoses is professionally ethical or in the service of political agendas.
“Trained mental health practitioners serve the public good by providing diagnoses of individuals based on scientifically and professionally established assessment techniques,” notes Fisher, who chaired the committee that wrote the current American Psychological Association’s (APA) Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct, “however the public and the profession are harmed when psychologists provide opinions based on unsubstantiated information drawn from media reports or other subjective observations.”
There have been claims suggesting that psychologists who offer diagnoses of Donald Trump are doing so for the purpose of national and public interest. According to Fisher, who is the author of the widely read Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologists, “Psychologists who claim that ‘Trumpism’ is a threat to democracy that provides moral justification to offer public diagnoses in the absence of established assessment techniques are deluding themselves into thinking that these unprofessional opinions benefit society.” Fisher further explains that psychologists are actually in “clear violation of the APA Ethics Code and are inadvertently contributing to a political climate based on opinion rather than fact.”
The following is an interview with the American Public Health Association’s Ethics Section with Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Director Dr. Celia B. Fisher who served as an advisor for a White House panel on conversion therapy.
In April of this year, President Barack Obama announced his support for state efforts to pass Leelah’s laws. Such laws seek to ban conversion therapy, a practice which claims to change individuals with LGBTQ identities to a heterosexual identity and is named for an American transgender girl who committed suicide after undergoing conversion therapy. Celia B. Fisher is the Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethics Education at Fordham University and an Ethics Section member. She served as an advisor for a White House report released last fall, Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth.
Following a White House report released in October condemning the use of conversion therapy, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have introduced legislation to end the harmful practice.
In this address, Fisher describes her innovative approach to giving vulnerable adolescents and their families a voice in ensuring the responsible conduct of research. Her work illuminates the importance of fitting research ethics protections to the real world lives of LGBT teens, pediatric cancer patients, and ethnic minority youth in ways that reflect their values and merit their trust.