Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Twiblings

In last Sunday's New York Times magazine there is an article about two babies who were produced in a most unusual way, even in today's age of assisted reproduction. A woman married late in life, wanted children, and could not become pregnant naturally or after several rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF). She then developed a medical condition that compromised her ability to carry a child safely, so carrying a child conceived with a donor egg was not an option. She and her husband decided to hire two surrogates to carry two embryos with eggs from the same donor (not one of the surrogates) fertilized in vitro with the husband's sperm.

IVF itself is old hat, having been available since the 1970s. It is not unheard-of for a woman with good eggs but unable to sustain a pregnancy to hire a surrogate to carry a child conceived from the woman's egg and her husband's sperm. It is quite common, as such things go, for a woman without good eggs but capable of carrying a child to carry one conceived from a donor egg and her husband's sperm. That is how women in their 50s and even 60s carry to term and give birth. But combining the two is quite unheard-of, at least according to the article's author. Genetically the two children, a boy and a girl born five days apart, are full siblings, but siblings are supposed to be born at least nine months apart unless they are twins. Twins are supposed to share a womb, but these babies did not. Hence - twiblings.

The article did not indicate if the couple was Jewish, so I assume it was not. But if it was, and sooner or later a Jewish women is going to have a child that way, I could imagine some halakhic problems arising. The birth certificate listed the man's wife as the legal mother, as is usual in such assisted reproduction cases. But halakhically, who is the child's mother? The gestational carrier (0ne for each baby)? The egg donor ("genetic mother")? Or the man's wife, who is actually raising the children? If the gestational carrier and/or the egg donor is not Jewish, does the child need to convert, as is the case for an adopted child? If there were two different biological fathers, would the children be allowed to marry each other? If the baby is the first carried by its gestational carrier, does it need pidyon haben? What if it's the first child of the father's wife, or of the egg donor? I could probably think of a few others, but these seem daunting enough. Resolving these quandaries will require poskim well-versed in human reproductive biology and not so put off by the newfangled technology that emotion will interfere with their thinking. Given the current anti-intellectual climate in our community, and the anti-secular trends in Jewish education, such people will be increasingly hard to come by.

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2 Comments:

Blogger cipher said...

Resolving these quandaries will require poskim well-versed in human reproductive biology and not so put off by the newfangled technology that emotion will interfere with their thinking. Given the current anti-intellectual climate in our community, and the anti-secular trends in Jewish education, such people will be increasingly hard to come by.

You think there's someone like that now?

Mon Jan 10, 05:49:00 PM EST  
Blogger Neandershort said...

Rabbi Moshe Tendler comes to mind, but he's getting on in years. Perhaps R. Abraham Abraham in Israel, author of a comprehensive medical halakha compendium.

Mon Jan 10, 07:49:00 PM EST  

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