Protecting the sanctity of life, even in a laboratory

Published: Saturday, April 20 2013 12:20 p.m. MDT

In this July 12, 2008 photo British physiologist Robert Edwards, left, attends the 30th anniversary of the world's first "test tube" fertilization baby Louise Joy Brown, right, holding her son Cameron. At centre left is her mother, Lesley Brown, at the Bourn Hall, in Bourn, England. A British scientist who developed test tube fertilization and gave thousands of infertile couples the chance to have children, has received the 2010 Nobel Prize in medicine, it was announced on Monday, Oct. 4, 2010. Starting in the 1950's, Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe developed the so-called IVF technology where egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the body.

Chris Radburn, Associated Press

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Sir Robert Edwards, a Nobel Prize winner and pioneer of in vitro fertilization, died last week at age 87. The work he did in developing in vitro fertilization enabled many women with forms of infertility to conceive and bear children.

Yet much of the Edwards' work remains controversial.

In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Robert P. George examines three categories of Edwards’ critics: people worried about overpopulation, certain feminists who regard Edwards’ work as turning women into machines for incubation and “proponents of the sanctity-of-life ethic, for whom Edwards's experiments to perfect IVF and the actual clinical practice of in vitro involve the deliberate taking of nascent human life.”

For George, one real question surrounding Edwards’ work is who is in charge? Edwards himself stated that his work was “about more than infertility" and “whether it was God Himself or whether it was scientists in the laboratory" who was in control. Edwards supposed his IVF technology provided the answer: "It was us." But according to George, “The real question of ‘who is in charge’ cannot be resolved by proving that something is technically possible. Rather it is whether it is right to or wrong — consistent with or contrary to the dignity of the human being — to do what it may well be technically possible to do.”

Email: mhartvigsen@desnews.com

Read more about the sanctity of life on The Wall Street Journal.

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