Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Field of Dreams: Developing Rules for Artificial Wombs

In 1989 the movie Field of Dreams promised, "if you build it, they will come". And come they did: all those hoping to have their faith in something bigger than them, restored. For the title character, Ray Kinsella, the field gave him the opportunity to see his father, again and create a relationship the two never had.

I'm reminded of that movie as I think about the development of an artificial womb. 'If you build it, they will come". They, being childless couples, in hopes of a bringing their baby into the world, the fulfillment of their dreams. But along with the honest and pure of heart will come those less chaste. As in the movie, the field attracted plenty of gawkers and those who just wanted to be part of something special. But should they have been allowed to partake in something so dear? That will be the question when the A/W is finally developed. Who should be allowed to utilize something so sacred? For afterall, what happened to the 'mystery of childbirth'? Should prior constraints be placed on this technology so, in advance of it's 'birth' all the players know the rules? In the movie, if a player walked off the field they forfeited their right to continue playing. For them, the only thing that would entice them to leave the confines of the field was saving a life.

There will be pressure on those entrusted to manage the artificial wombs to allow fetuses to grow, not specifically for a healthy child who will live a full life, but for a child who will provide spare parts for children who are already disabled in some fashion. And there will be pressure to allow that womb to provide safe haven for women who are simply not inclinded to endure the discomfort, physically and socially, of pregnancy. Shall they be allowed to utilize this technology?
We can't simply 'build it and they will come". That's not responsible when you consider lives are at stake. This field of dreams needs some rules before the game can begin.

Benita Zahn

SFGate: Development of Articial Wombs

'Silicon womb' to begin fertility trials

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