4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章stephen185 » 週六 4月 08, 2017 1:07 pm

"In a world first, Singapore’s highest court rules that parents deserve kids with their genes"
(https://theconversation.com/in-a-world- ... enes-75199)

Blood is thicker than water, or so the saying goes, reflecting the value we put on biological relationships. But is it something the law should recognise? Singapore's Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that asks this very question, and it gave a fascinating answer: parents have a strong interest in “genetic affinity” with their children, one that can merit compensation if subverted.

Genetic affinity is an entirely new legal standard. It has no clear precedent in any jurisdiction. But the court made a compelling argument that it has a sound basis in the way we value family and heredity. Recognising that value will be particularly important as we advance into the genomic era, which will increase our ability to not only analyse but also alter our fundamental biological code.

ACB v Thomson Medical

The case in question involves an unfortunate mix-up. A couple underwent in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) at Thomson Medical Centre in Singapore. The process was successful, and the mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl (her second child via IVF) in 2010. But the happy parents soon noticed that their daughter had markedly different features, including hair and skin tone, compared with them and their first child. A genetic test found that the child was related only to the mother, not the mother’s husband. Thomson Medical confirmed a mistake had been made; an anonymous donor’s sperm, rather than the husband’s sperm, had accidentally been used to inseminate the mother’s egg. The couple sued Thomson Medical, seeking damages including the child’s upkeep through to the age of 21. The case wound its way through the courts, eventually ending up before the Supreme Court, which issued a final ruling on March 2.

Upkeep and genetic affinity

The court denied the couple’s claim for upkeep costs because it would have a pernicious effect in that the child’s birth would be seen as an overall mistake, or loss to the parents. The parents are raising the child, and an award would send a perverse and harmful message to the child that she was not valued, that her very existence required monetary compensation. This reasoning has led many courts to deny “wrongful birth” upkeep claims. Such claims typically come up when someone parents a child after a botched voluntary sterilisation operation. It was also the basis of Andrews v Keltz , a New York State Supreme Court “wrongful fertilisation” case involving a similar sperm mix-up.

Singapore’s Supreme Court was clearly dissatisfied with that outcome. It felt that the couple had suffered a very serious harm, one not captured by current common law. So the court created a completely new category of loss – genetic affinity. It held that parents have a strong interest in being genetically related to their children, and that Thomson Medical had violated this interest.

Ironically, the court did set the award for loss of genetic affinity at 30% of upkeep costs to the couple in the end. This was not because upkeep itself was a loss to be compensated; it was because there seemed no other principled way to settle the financial value of genetic affinity. Awarding a portion of upkeep was at least less arbitrary than an absolute award. At the same time, it may raise the concern that the value of genetic affinity has greater monetary weight for rich parents, who have higher upkeep costs, than poor parents.

The value of genetic affinity

More fundamentally, the case raises the question of whether there’s really a value in genetic affinity. The court relied, in part, on an obscure 1999 law review article by New York University law academic Fred Norton. In it, he argues that “parents have an interest in having children with whom they share symbolically identifying traits". But Norton’s argument is problematic because it is skin deep. He focuses on traits like appearance as grounding the interest in genetic affinity. This implies that the harm involved in the case was not about the misplaced sperm as such, but about certain superficial features of the misplaced sperm.

In ACB v Thomson Medical, the couple were of Chinese and German heritage, while the genetic father was of Indian heritage. If the genetic father had – by chance – also been of Chinese or German heritage (or both), would there have been a loss of genetic affinity? Norton’s argument gives no reason for thinking so. Yet there’s something very disturbing about this. Is the value of a familial relationship reducible to a set of superficial appearances or traits? A more sound moral basis for the value of genetic affinity would go much deeper. It would hold that genetic affinity isn’t just about appearances; it’s about consciously choosing to create a child by a mixing of this mother’s egg with this father’s sperm, producing a child with half the DNA of each parent.

Society and individuals place great value on such biological relationships. Genetic affinity – rather than appearance – grounds a parent’s obligation to pay child support, for instance. And men who suspect their spouses of cheating on them often care deeply about whether their children are really theirs. The court supports this deeper value at various points in ACB v Thomson Medical, and it is quite compelling when it does so. It’s careful to note, though, that genetic affinity is not an absolute value. Adoptive parenting relationships should be lauded, not devalued. But adoption’s value derives in part from its consensual nature. When parents are denied genetic affinity with their child against their will, as in the present case, it is plausible that a great harm has indeed occurred.

Looking forward

It remains to be seen whether other jurisdictions will recognise the value of genetic affinity. But the judgment occurs at an interesting juncture in human history. We are gaining unprecedented ability to tinker with our genetic code, and this raises interesting ethical issues. Do women with mitochondrial disorders have a right to engage in "three-parent IVF"(*) to ensure genetic affinity with a healthy child, for instance?

If we use CRISPR-cas9 gene-editing technology(**) to alter the genes of embryos, does it constitute a loss of genetic affinity with parents? And is it possible to use such editing to shift genetic affinity, by making a child’s traits more in line with one parent rather than the other? These questions will only become more pressing as science advances, and the concept of genetic affinity may provide a coherent lens through which to consider them.

* Mitochondrial mutation could cause Leigh syndrome, a fatal neurological disorder. Women with mitochondrial disorders often suffer from miscarriages or early death of their children due to neurological diseases, but with a small amount of DNA from a female donor, the mother's egg can be mended. In this case, it takes three people to make these healthy fertilized eggs and thus is called "three-parent IVF". ("Three-parent babies' explained", https://www.sciencenews.org/article/thr ... -explained )

** A group of leading biologists have developed a new genome-editing technique that would alter human DNA in a way that can be inherited. ("Scientists Seek Ban on Method of Editing the Human Genome.", https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/20/scie ... umans.html );
More relevant information about Genome Editing can be found through the links provided in a previous YOYO meeting, "From Streaking to Glowing Fish" ( viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3908 )


Relevant Videos
1. "Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever–CRISPR" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAhjPd4uNFY ) <-- a "Must-See", over 210,000 viewers gave thumbs up.
2. "TED Talk: What you need to know about CRISPR | Ellen Jorgensen" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BXYSGepx7Q ) <-- Watch this for a brief understanding of CRISPR.
3. "TED Talk: How CRISPR lets us edit our DNA | Jennifer Doudna" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdBAHexVYzc ) <-- Try this if you are really interested in the science.

Questions for Discussion
Session I
1. Should the couple who suffer from the medical center's mistake pertaining to sperm mix-up during IVF treatment still be under obligation to bring up the child despite the "wrongful fertilisation"?

2. The court decided to award the couple a sum equivalent to 30% of the cost of bringing up the child. Do you think the percentage is reasonable? Why it's not 50% (the child is still biologically related to the mother) or 100% (The birth is against the couple's will)?

3. Do you agree that an award for the "loss of genetic affinity" would send a perverse and harmful message to the child that her very existence required monetary compensation? If you were the mother, would you sue the medical center for the upkeep cost? If you were the baby girl, how would you feel when you grow up and learn about the story?

4. Is there any other way that you can think of to compensate the couple's loss of genetic affinity or to resolve the issue other than granting pecuniary raparation?

Session II
5. How do you recognize the value of genetic affinity? Is it justifiable to single out genetic affinity, separating it from "family life", on its own as a source of value?

6.In addition to sperm mix-up, wrongful implantation of embryos as well lists itself as one of the common errors seen in artificial reproductions, in which the subject was mistakenly implanted with another couple’s embryo. Who do you think is the rightful owner of the custody of the child? the biological parent or the childbearing woman? What are the salient attributes that define a "mother"? (pregnancy? genetic link? expressed intention to raise and care for a child as one's own?...)

7.In the United States, payments to egg donors range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars(*), depending on the characteristics of the donor and the program she is involved in and the rates paid to men by most sperm banks are around $100 per sample. Knowing that, will you consider donating your sex cells for financial compensation? (*accoridng to the book,"Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm" by Rene Almeling)

8. Along with the advancement of gene technology, editing our genome for a better chromosome combination could be as easy as an eyelid surgery in the future. Do you agree that healthy people can pay for editing/modifying their genes with DNA from others, the sellers, so that their children can inherit better/desirable traits? Is there any difference between the commercialization of egg/sperm donation and the commodification of genome editing with respect to the impacts on the society?

********************************************************************************************************************************************
Agenda:
3:45 ~ 4:00pm Greetings & Free Chat / Ordering Beverage or Meal / Getting Newcomer’s Information
4:00 ~ 4:10pm Opening Remarks / Newcomer’s Self-introduction / Grouping
(Session I)
4:10 ~ 4:50pm Discussion Session (40 mins)
4:50 ~ 5:10pm Sharing Time (20 mins)
5:10 ~ 5:20pm Regrouping / Instruction Giving / Taking a 10 Minutes Break (Intermission)
(Session II)
5:20 ~ 6:00pm Discussion Session (40 mins)
6:00 ~ 6:20pm Sharing Time (20 mins)
6:20 ~ 6:30pm Concluding Remarks / Announcements
********************************************************************************************************************************************
聚會日期:列於該貼文主題內
聚會時間:請盡量準時 4:00 pm到,聚會約 6:30 pm 左右結束
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地址、電話:台北市濟南路三段25號; (02) 2740-2350
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stephen185
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章Kooper » 週日 4月 16, 2017 11:22 am

I found an interesting fact that Stephen has held several meetings on gene-related topics over the past few years. It's good to have an expert and enthusiast like Stephen in YOYO to help us keep in touch with its progress and reflect more deeply on the controversies the new advances stir up.
Kooper
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章stephen185 » 週日 4月 16, 2017 7:59 pm

Hi, Kooper, I am far from an expert in this area. Only many years ago, I came across an article about using enzymes to remove surface antigens defining the human blood types A,B,O in order to make "universal" blood cells that would not trigger an immune response. A, B and AB red blood cells can be converted with these novel enzymes and resulted in type O cells. That's the very first time I was intrigued by biotechnology. After that, I became interested in knowledges related to human body :)
stephen185
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章Gloria Lo » 週日 4月 16, 2017 8:12 pm

It's a long article, can anyone give us a short summary? :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章stephen185 » 週日 4月 16, 2017 8:44 pm

Gloria Lo 寫:It's a long article, can anyone give us a short summary? :lol: :lol: :lol:

Hi, Gloria, you might want to check the following, "Singapore woman wins damages from IVF sperm mix-up" ( http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_809780.asp ), which is much shorter. To answer questions about gene editing in session II , however, I would suggest watching the first relevant video listed at the end of the article ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAhjPd4uNFY ), which is an animation actually, in case you do not have time to read the reference material.
stephen185
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章Gloria Lo » 週日 4月 16, 2017 11:18 pm

Stephen,

Thank you. It's quite helpful.
You know that I'm not a selfish guy. I posted the request for a lot of yoyoers. HAHAHA :wink:
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章Iris Wu » 週四 4月 20, 2017 12:29 am

I guess it's going to be a tough Saturday afternoon. Those questions require thinking deeply and even that you fully understand all the implication of each case, it is still hard to decide one way or the other. Just hope these cases are rare exceptions. I cannot possibly imagine how a family is going through this kind of ordeal. And it is not the type of "mistake" that you only need to deal with it in a short period of time, it is a lifelong process. I envision that the couple would always wonder what "the other life" would be if it were not mixed up? I am not sure what kind of penalty should be charged to the hospital's mishandling, but none of the compensation can truly mend the wounds of the couple's plagued hearts.
Iris Wu
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章stephen185 » 週四 4月 20, 2017 3:08 pm

Hi, Iris, please pardon my giving those tough questions. Indeed, it is hard to give good answers to those questions. The advent of the reproductive technology reflects the importance of biological parenthood in our society. It does help infertile couples fulfill their dreams of having children of their own. However, it seems that technology always throw some knotty problems at us while bringing us benefits. Only the problems we have to deal with in the case of reproductive technology are usually concerned with lives. On the other hand, gene technology can give us even bigger benefits, but the consequence of erring during the gene editing process or misusing of the technology could be disastrous. I guess if it's not possible to ban the development of these technologies because of our need, we'd better be prepared to face some ethical and moral issues that we have never thought about before.
stephen185
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章Rock » 週四 4月 20, 2017 5:51 pm

My boss will be with us in this meeting. He said that he has been wanting to learn English. :D
I think Yoyo will open a door for him.
In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
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Rock
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章Iris Wu » 週四 4月 20, 2017 9:12 pm

Wow! Rock's boss, that is our boss' boss! We'd better show our proper etiquette and good manners to him, otherwise Rock may lose his job! :)

In reply to Stephen's comments, yes, technology and human society only move forward. They won't wait for laws and ethics to be completed as we are witnessing many legal challenges in driverless cars, unmanned drones, embryo usage and genetically modified stuff, etc. Regulations and ethical rules can't keep pace with technological innovation. Laws are reactive to technology evolution, they are not capable to be proactive in this regard.
Iris Wu
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章stephen185 » 週四 4月 20, 2017 11:23 pm

Rock, we will definitely show our proper etiquette by yielding him a lot of time to share his opinion. I hope my "brain-racking" questions won't scare him away and please let him know that we do have many fun topics for meetings, such as Kooper's topic for next Saturday meeting :)
stephen185
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章Luis Ko » 週四 4月 20, 2017 11:37 pm

great~ i always like this kind of topics, serious and controversial enough to talk about haa~

of course i agree blood is thicker than water but then, when it comes to a family, blood is merely a way to distinguish biological ties. what really matters is how strong the "connection" is with each other, i would say.

by the way, i really go against genetic engineering, if i didn't get it wrong. people are greedy. the more the technology advances, the more people will ask for later. it's said human is playing God, and i don't think human should play God since we just cannot be as selfless as God.. 8)
i might be a cynic and, a sceptic as well but, i'm definitely not a bad person!!
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章stephen185 » 週五 4月 21, 2017 8:53 am

Hi, Luis. I kind of agree that people are greedy, if not in the very begining. So, it may be just like what was mentioned in the first video I suggested for reference, that genetic engineering, or more specifically, the gene editing technology will be at first used "to eliminate deadly genetic disease running in a family. As the technology progresses and gets more refined, more and more people may argue that NOT using genetic modification is unethical, because it condemns children to preventable suffering and death and denies them to cure. But as soon as the first "engineered" kid is born, a door is opened that can't be closed anymore..." or maybe not?
stephen185
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章Iris Wu » 週五 4月 21, 2017 11:10 am

I see the contradiction here. On one thread, you were defending human beings with free will, and here you condemned people playing God! So are human being tryng to be God at their free will? So what is God doing? Oh, I know. HE (the Almighty) is giving human beings the "free will" to think they should not play God! :)

We surely know the technology evolution in human history bring us benefits and disasters, and I mean a same invention, say the dynamite Alfred Nobel invented, on the one hand, it's a deadly weapon, very unethical when using it in killing, but on the other hand, it was used mostly for bridge and many peaceful construction. Do or should we stop making it? We can always argue that God created mountains and rivers to stop us, and so human beings should not play God to destroy them! That would be good argument and we would all still stay in the age of cavemen! To be honest, I kind of like it, too! Civilization does not bring all the happiness to people, right? :)

Looking back, human evolution has always had all kinds of contractions. Genetic engineering is just one of them. "But you know, life is difficult. Handle it!" I am probably a little bit more optimistic in terms of giving credit to human wisdom.
Iris Wu
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Re: 4/22(Sat.) The Value of Genetic Affinity (Host:Stephen)

文章Luis Ko » 週五 4月 21, 2017 1:29 pm

contradiction? no way, because logic is may middle name~ :P

there's contradiction between what i defend, free will, and what i condemn, playing God, only if, it's like you said, i thought God wants people to play it and people do follow God's will. of course not!! it's just not like that, because that's not what i believe in. i'm a sceptic and, kind of an atheist. there's no God at all to me so, at the end of the day, it's all people's free will of course haaa~ 8)

by the way, just like Rock has said, Free will doesn't guarantee a happy ending, neither dose it have to be positive i would say.. :lol:
i might be a cynic and, a sceptic as well but, i'm definitely not a bad person!!
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