Who Owns That Barcode-Encrusted Embryo?
Even though I’ve never seen Modern Family, I’ve been following the story of Sophia Vergara’s embryos because… well… it’s a “what if” nightmare come true.
What if a couple creates embryos together. They sign paperwork that says they both need to give permission to use said embryos — standard procedure — but the judge agrees that the original form is not clear on what should happen to said embryos if the couple breaks up, as Nick Loeb and Sophia Vergara did before they transferred the embryos to a surrogate.
Technically, it would follow if both needed to give permission to use said embryos while they were together that it would follow that both would need to give permission to use said embryos now that they’re apart. But the judge is still allowing Nick Loeb to sue for custody of the embryos, presumably so he can use them since his op-ed in the New York Times mentions how cruel he thinks it is to leave embryos frozen.
He calls it an “embryonic custody dispute.”
It makes me profoundly uncomfortable. There were clear guidelines established in how they wanted to use the embryos while they were together, and the default would be to keep the embryos frozen — neither destroying them or using them — unless both parties agreed now that they’re apart.
I found it interesting that Loeb ends the New York Times op-ed with a simple bio: “Nick Loeb is a businessman.”
Because I feel like he’s trying to sell us something, and I don’t want to buy it.
What should happen to embryos in the event of a breakup? Should someone be able to use them against the other person’s wishes?
Gizmodo reported recently that, in the future, they will be able to add barcodes to eggs and sperm to ensure that the correct gametes are used to create embryos. The technology exists, though it hasn’t been approved for human use yet.
I know mistakes happen — we all know mistakes happen — and yet the barcode thing both intrigued and repelled me at the same time. It’s no different — in one regard — from a hospital ID bracelet that goes around the wrist of every person in the hospital; matching each child with his or her parent before being handed over.
And in another, barcodes feel a step closer to fulfilling the hand-wringing prophecy that we’re commodifying human life. After all, what else do we slap barcodes on beyond cans of soup and jeans?
What are your thoughts on gamete barcodes?