A Canadian moral theologian criticizes the use of new productive technologies when they leads to the objectification of people.

Bridget Campion, assistant professor of moral theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto, told The Interim that recent uses of in vitro fertilization (IVF) have created a whole new moral problem that goes beyond how human life is created to the uses to which it is put.

On Oct. 2, newspapers around the world announced that doctors at Chicago’s Reproductive Genetics Institute were waiting to see if a test-tube baby would be able to save the life of his six-year-old sister.

The sister, Molly Nash, needed a bone marrow stem cell transplant that may cure her of a life-threatening blood disease, Fanconi’s anemia. The RGI created several embryos from the eggs and sperm of Molly’s parents, and using genetic screening techniques picked one with a tissue type that matched Molly’s.

Mrs. Nash gave birth to a son, Adam, and stem cells from Adam’s umbilical cord were given to Molly in a transplant. Reuters reported that “it marked the first time that an embryo diagnosis before implantation had been used for this purpose.” IVF and genetic screening have been used to ensure that only healthy babies are brought to birth, but never to save the life of a sibling.

Campion questioned whether using Adam for parts “treated him with dignity and respect.” She condemned the use of creating new life as a means to an end. “Even if the parents love Adam and had the best of intentions, they are using him as a means to an end. People should never be means to an end.”

She said the view of pregnancy as a means of production commodifies children, that it misses the distinction between being a source and being a donor. She hoped every step would be taken to protect Adam’s well-being and said the procedure must not focus only on the recipient. She wondered how the parents would react if the procedure didn’t work and Molly died.

With the rapid development of new reproductive technologies, Campion said such moral questions will only increase. She said “We need to rediscover the difference between ‘we can’ and ‘we should’.”

At about the same time as the Nash case was made public, a Scottish couple sought (and was later denied) permission to use a technique known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to ensure their next child was a girl. The couple have four sons but lost their only daughter in an accident and want to “replace” her.now “incomplete” without its sister.

Paul Tuns