Trung Nguyen

For sale: one womb

In a world where you shouldn’t have to wait for anything, why wait nine months for your child to be born?

This is the marketing pitch of Silver Sling, a Manhattan-based surrogacy clinic. Silver Sling offers ‘chemically accelerated births’ that can shorten the duration of surrogate births to three months. Wealthy clients who wish to have a child but do not wish to undergo pregnancy themselves – much less have to wait nine months to have a child – may pay for these accelerated pregnancies as a means of convenience and time efficiency. Silver Sling enables them to have a child in three months by transferring the couple’s embryo to the uterus of another woman who agrees to act as a surrogate for a fee. These surrogates are, for the most part, women from the lower end of the economic spectrum.

Lydia is one of these women. She is a Russian immigrant in her late 20s and is considering becoming a surrogate for the third time. In doing so, she will make enough money to bring her brother to the USA from Russia, something she promised her dying mother she would do. This is despite the fact that undergoing a third accelerated pregnancy will make her sterile, ending her own dreams of having a child with her boyfriend, Stephan. Continue reading

Catholic bishops condemn France’s first ‘bebe medicament’

Last month, doctors in France announced the arrival of the country’s first so-called ‘saviour sibling’. Born to parents of Turkish origin, Umut Talha (Turkish for ‘our hope’) was conceived through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This technique, in conjunction with Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) typing, commonly known as ‘tissue-typing’, has enabled families to have a child – a ‘saviour sibling’ – that is capable of donating life-saving tissue (usually umbilical cord material) to an existing sick sibling. Umut’s parents approached the hospital in Clamart a year ago requesting tissue-typing PGD. Their two existing children had beta thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder that requires monthly blood transfusions.

An embryo was screened and genetically selected from an original group of twelve embryos to ensure that it was both free of the disorder and a tissue match for one of the existing siblings. The resulting saviour sibling, Umut, did not have thalassaemia, and cells from his discarded umbilical cord will be used to cure his older sister, now aged two, and her monthly blood transfusions will be discontinued. Umut’s parents plan to return to Clamart to undergo the same procedure to cure their other child, Umut’s four-year-old brother.  

Saviour sibling selection is nothing new. Continue reading