Using Close Genes: A Suggestion

Today, if a gay couple wants to have a child, they have two main options: Either (1) they adopt a child or (2) they get an egg from a donor, have it fertilized in a laboratory, and have a surrogate mother carry and give birth to their child.

These are both good options. Imagine, however, that a certain gay couple – let us call them Albert and Mark – wants a child that genetically belongs to both of them. If they want this, then option (1) will not do the trick. Option (2) will be somewhat better, but the child will then carry genetic material from only one of the two.

This does not satisfy Albert and Mark.

Is their problem solvable? Can Albert and Mark have a child that, genetically, is truly theirs? The answer that first strikes one is no, since this seemingly requires technology beyond reach.

It is easily solvable, however, if we just think outside the box. The solution is that the egg fertilized by Albert’s sperm should come from Mark’s sister, or if still fertile, form Mark’s mother. This would not give a perfect genetic match, but a decent one – and it would be safe, affordable, and fully possible. Even legal, I assume, since it does not imply inbreeding.

Why should not gay couples do this? Or, for that matter: Why should not straight couples where one party is infertile?

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2 Responses to Using Close Genes: A Suggestion

  • Matt Sharp says:

    Looks like it has been done:
    http://www.poole-dayan.com/article_e.html

    I can't imagine that the technology required for both gay partners to directly contribute genetic material is too far away. Conceptually it simply entails removing the nucleus from an egg, replacing it with the nucleus from one partner's sperm, then fertilising it with the other partner's. The egg would still contain a very small amount of mitochondrial DNA from the female the egg was obtained from, but apart from this any resulting embryo would be a mix of the 2 gay men.

    If this technology were to be combined with the development of ectogenetic technology (i.e, artificial wombs), then there would not even be a need for a surrogate mother. This technology presumably wouldn't be applied for several decades, even if it could plausibly be done today.

    Ignoring issues surrounding ectogenesis (that greatly impact on the abortion debate), the main problem I see with this is that it encourages 'genetic privileging', i.e. it encourages people to think that children are more valuable if they are genetically related to them. This is also a criticism of IVF. Should we not first be encouraging people to adopt one of the thousands of parent-less kids instead of encouraging them to spend a lot of time and money (potentially tens of thousands of pounds with IVF) promoting what seemingly amounts to genetic egotism?

  • Wayne Yuen says:

    Yeah I agree with Matt… I'm not sure why we should necessarily further encourage the idea that genetic identity somehow makes children their own. Adoptive parents are legitimately the parents of their child. Were the biological parent to come around after 5 years, they wouldn't and shouldn't have any more claim to that child, than a stranger in the park would.

    Maybe the more ethically troubling thing would be forcing gays adopting, or anyone else for that matter, to have open adoptions where genetic parents remain in contact, or an open sharing of information is given to the genetic parents from the adoptive parents.

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