May 24, 2024

Do LGBT parents have a right to a full genetic relationship?

Why should they settle for anything less than heterosexual couples?

The possibility of creating synthetic gametes (eggs from male stem cells, sperm from female stem cells) raises some interesting ethical issues. LGBT couples currently depend upon a third party to contribute opposite-sex gametes. This means that their children will never be fully genetically related and that their relationship depends on outside intervention.

But even for LGBT couples, a genetic relationship with a child is the “cultural gold standard” for reproduction, Timothy Murphy points out in the Journal of Medical Ethics. If this is the case, then LBGT couples should be able to have it as well.

After all, if that kind of relatedness is socioculturally and psychologically important enough to override searching questions about the ethics of fertility medicine in general, then it would seem to be important enough to theorise in relation to same-sex couples’ inability to secure it for their families.

Settling for less than the gold standard is inequitable, Murphy argues. In the near future, LGBT couples won’t have to. They will no longer be “inherently infertile”. Rather, they will only be “situationally infertile” in relation to each other – something which can be solved with the help of reproductive technology.

Perhaps LGBT couples, he argues, should even be prioritised in research to help infertile couples conceive and have children:

 it’s unclear why—as a matter of moral theory—same-sex couples should have to ‘settle for’ anything less than the same shared genetics in their children as is available to opposite-sex couples. It’s plausible in some ways that opposite-sex couples are owed research priority towards securing shared genetics in their children simply as a matter of access and equity and also—more searchingly—as a matter of compensatory justice, for past road blocks imposed against having children. As it often does, biology might stand in the way of human hopes, but then again we won’t know for sure unless we test it against our moral ambitions.

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lgbt bioethics
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