February 28, 2024

What Luke Skywalker tells us about bioethics

Hi there,

Our lead story this week comes from Argentina. A court there has sentenced former president Jorge Rafael Videla to an additional 50 years in prison for a particularly distressing human rights abuse – removing newborn babies from their mothers and giving them to military couples. This may have happened up to 500 times, although only about 100 of the children have been reunited to their parents.

Baby-snatching is not in the index of most bioethics textbooks. But I think that this story and other like it – irregular adoptions in Spain and the United States, for instance – show the incredible strength of genetic ties. In Argentina, denying children their genetic heritage became a hot political issue. The anguish of not being able to connect with lost parents is an ancient theme in literature, too, from Oedipus to Luke Skywalker.

Practices like anonymous gamete donation and surrogacy have created thousands of children who have lost contact with their natural parents. Will their frustration with those broken genetic links someday turn to anger and political agitation, as in Argentina? 

Michael Cook
Are we creating new stolen generations?