Discussion of the Theological and Ethical Points of Creating Gametes from Stem Cells

Is it appropriate for men to create sperm and women to create eggs from their stem cells?

Could the creation of sperm from the stem cells of men and of eggs from the stem cells of women be considered as ethical if all the scientific risks could be addressed? Should any decision to make gametes from stem cells be made by the live individuals from whom the stem cells were produced? Should two separate live individuals be providing two sets of gametes and be prepared to look after the resulting child? Does Christian Theology have anything to say in this regard? Is gametogenesis part of the procreative story in such a way that it shares the dignity of the procreative act?

Is the production of artificial gametes overwhelmingly likely to be the product of the dominant libertarian IVF culture? Is it naïve to believe that that one could have this technology without it being used in a wide range of ways? Even if a ‘simple case’ of creation of artificial gametes could be defended, is this almost certainly an exception?

Is it appropriate for men to create eggs and women to create sperm from their stem cells?

Should the creation of gametes take place from stem cells originating in a donor of the opposite sex to the gametes? How is it possible to rationally express arguments in this regard? Should the ‘Yuck’ factor be considered or is this no longer seen as appropriate in contemporary discussions?

Are gametes just cells with a certain amount of DNA and does this matter? But could persons not also just be considered as amalgamations of cells and does their sexuality or gender really matter in reproduction? In the development of gametes from stem cells having the opposite sex from the stem cell donor, could it be argued that the gametes no longer represented the parents? Would the situation be similar to heterelogous donation whereby the gametes of another person are utilized by a couple in the procreative process?

In all these procedures is it important to put the prospective child first in all circumstances and that he or she should not be objectified or instrumentalised? Does Christian Theology have anything to say relating to all the above? It is very important to try to resolve these ethical dilemmas before the science makes such procedures possible.

This presentation was a session at the Center's 2012 Academy of Fellows Consultation on "The Ethics and Theology of Synthetic Gametes" held on November 3, 2012. For more information on the consultation visit here.