>The Nuffield Bioethics Council has published its report, “Critical care decisions in fetal and neonatal medicine: ethical issues.”
I’ve just skimmed over it, so far. More later.
You can read the entire report in pdf form , my summary (below) at LifeEthics.org, which includes links to other people’s summaries, including one from the chair of the Council.
>I can see a problem looming in the distant future.There is currently a bit of a debate about when a premature baby should always be cared for. I think its important to know that this is a *recent* debate – because its only medical advances that have allowed them to survive at all. What happens when technology continues to advance though? Will we be able to keep alive babies born at 20 weeks? 19? 18? How long before the artificial womb?Eventually, there will be some way to sustain and grow from fresh embryo to full-term baby in an entirely artificial environment. Its going to be a long way off, but with the way technology advances its inevitable (baring the collapse of civilisation). Think what issues that one is going to raise.First one I see is going to be the problem of what to do with spare embryos from IVF. Currently, they are mostly thrown away, because there isn't really any alternative. There are far too many to implant more than a fraction, and long term freezing would just lead to warehouses full of box after box of surplus even if its safety past a few years were known. But once there is a potential to grow each and every one of them… well, the abortion debate right now will be like a schoolyard arguement in comparison.Then there is the risk of spontanious abortion… in the natural mothers. If the artificial womb is more reliable, how can it be justified allowing a fetus to grow in an unnessicarily risky environment? One that comes with an access-panel would be so much better.Then the economic impact. Pregnency consists of a few months of mild discomfort, then a few months of terrible discomfort, then anywhere from hours to days of screaming agony. Now, how many women – particually the rich, who could afford it – would rather get their babies off-the-shelf?
>There's discussion about just this in science fiction. For example, the Honor Harrington series by David Webber and Louise McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigian series.I know there's more, but I can't think of any other than Gatica. Back in '80 or '81, though, there was a short story in one of the science fiction monthlies that concluded with one of my favorite mottoes, "Use original container."