Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Fruit of a Poisoned Tree

There is a legal doctrine, referred to as "fruit of the poisonous tree", indicating that any evidence obtained in an illegal manner, no matter how damning, is inadmissible in a court of law. The point of this is both to protect to rights of those persons involved, and also to deter those law enforcement agents from ever violating those rights in the first place. After all, if the protection against illegal search and seizure didn't actually prevent the reaping of the benefits of illegal police actions, there would be no real deterrents against blatant rights violations.

I think this principle needs to be considered with respect to the hundreds of thousands of human embryos we currently have "on ice" from the growth of the in-vitro fertilization. There are at least half a million human embryos sitting in cold storage in the United States alone, waiting.

Waiting for what, though? Most of them, I would guess, aren't intended, any more, to be bore in their mothers' wombs. Many extra embryos are produced in each IVF "treatment" cycle, "just in case," they say. Then what? The parents have a kid or two, maybe more with twins being quite common, and then, they decide they've "had enough," and are left with additional children on ice.

There has been a lot of discussion about what to do about these persons, and many good and prominent Catholics disagree about the best course of action. Some people suggest the "adoption" of these embryos by families who would be willing to bear and raise someone else's biological progeny. Others suggest that we must see to keep them cold until such a time as we can be confident that they have died. Secular thinkers even think we should be using them for embryonic stem cell research. The Catholic thinkers will at least admit that this is a very unfortunate situation and doesn't admit an immediately clear morally good answer.

This is where I think we need to consider the principle of the fruit of poison trees. The wholesale production of humans for the purpose of using a few in place of natural reproduction is morally reprehensible. No solution will change that. And, thus, any solution we come up with must not encourage the act. This is why the adoption solution is imperfect. What if it were to "catch on", if couples who were truly infertile found this a solution to their infertility? This could encourage more, not less embryo production.

The "tree" of IVF is truly a poisonous scourge on society, and the only way out will ultimately be to pull it out by its roots. We must stop this practice completely. Short of that, we will not be free of the associated problems.

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