Can a mother give her eggs to her infertile daughter?

Situation: a little girl who is afflicted with Turner’s syndrome, a rare disease that renders sufferers infertile; a mother who wants to give her daughter the chance to have children in the future; and a specialist who agrees to harvest and freeze the mother’s eggs. In spite of the rare and unusual nature of the situation, it did not fail to spark controversy and raise numerous ethical questions.

Situation: a little girl who is afflicted with Turner’s syndrome, a rare disease that renders sufferers infertile; a mother who wants to give her daughter the chance to have children in the future; and a specialist who agrees to harvest and freeze the mother’s eggs. In spite of the rare and unusual nature of the situation, it did not fail to spark controversy and raise numerous ethical questions.

The reality is that should this little girl choose to use her mother’s eggs to have a child some day, her child will be her half-brother or half-sister, and the son or daughter of her own mother! Facing such a difficult predicament forced many people to question themselves on what was actually considered ethically acceptable, and what was not. The parents of the little girl were no exception to this dilemma. After a year of serious reflection, in the end, they decided to go ahead with their endeavour. Because the mother was already 35 years old, they could no longer delay harvesting the eggs, to make sure they were optimally viable.

The specialist who agreed to harvest the eggs, Dr. Seang Lin Tan of McGill University’s Reproductive Centre, questioned himself to such an extent that he went as far as submitting the case to an independent ethics committee. Eventually, the committee authorized the procedure, stating that it was clearly an act of love from a mother to her daughter. Their agreement was also based on the fact that ultimately, the daughter would have the choice of using or not using her mother’s eggs, if and when she decides to have children.

The new techniques in human reproduction regularly raise ethical questions. For example, is it ethically correct for a 60-year-old woman to give birth to a child? What about a woman who is implanted with multiple embryos to increase her chances of pregnancy, only to end up pregnant with 4, 5, and even 6 children? What about surrogate mothers? More people face these dilemmas today than ever before in human history.

Some observers urge us to stop thinking about the potential parents, and focus instead on the psychological welfare and the repercussions on the children themselves. In fact, it seems that an increasing amount of children born out of these scientific advances are suffering from identity problems, specifically a condition called “genealogical bewilderment”. How could you not be troubled if your mother was your half-sister and your grandmother your biological mother?

Our knowledge of how the human body functions continually increases, allowing great medical advances to amaze us, but more importantly, to save human lives. Thanks to these advances, physicians are now able to treat and even cure many diseases that, only a few years ago, had terribly bleak prognostics and devastating endings. However, some medical and scientific advances, particularly those in human reproduction, tend to raise deep ethical questions on personal identity and the meaning of life.

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