Two years ago, a British couple using in vitro fertilization discovered that their frozen embryo was accidently implanted in another woman, who later aborted the child. Commenting on the story, a bioethicist explained to CNA that in vitro fertilization violates the Catholic Church's teaching on the equal value of all life.
The couple, known simply as Paul and Debra, described their dismay at learning that their last surviving embryo had accidently been given to the wrong woman. When the mistake was discovered, the woman took an abortion pill to end the pregnancy.
Paul and Debra explained to ITV that they had already produced one son through in vitro fertilization. Four years later, they decided to have a second child with the last living embryo of the nine that had originally been created. But upon returning to the clinic in Wales where the frozen embryo was being stored, they were informed of the mistake.
The couple received thousands of dollars in damages from the clinic. Representatives of the clinic have called the accident “unacceptable” and said that measures have been taken to ensure that this type of mistake will not happen again.
Speaking about the tragic mistake, Debra said, “The actual mention of the termination part of it really upsets us because we tend to think of the embryo as the little boy that we have got because he was from the first batch of embryos.”
Jennifer Miller, Executive Director of Bioethics International, analyzed the situation for CNA, saying, “approximately two-thirds of IVF attempts are unsuccessful, indicating that the majority of created embryos are lost rather than born in the process."
"This indicates that embryos are viewed as expendable, or possessing less value, by a good portion of the general public and medical community," Miller added. This violates Catholic moral teachings which state that all life from conception to natural death possess dignity and value.
In 1987, the Catholic Church officially addressed the dangers of in vitro procedures in “Donum Vitae,” emphasizing that “human embryos obtained in vitro are human beings” with dignity and rights that must be respected.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in vitro fertilization is immoral because it separates the unitive and procreative meanings of the sexual act. Conception of children should be the “fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses’ union.”
The Church warns against man trying to take the place of God through in vitro fertilization by saying that in such methods of artificial conception, “The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person.”