Little did I think back in 2005, when I wrote Double Trouble, that surrogate pregnancy would hit the headlines in quite the way it has.
Don’t get me wrong, I have huge sympathy for people who are genuinely unable to have children. Goodness, I’ve written two novels on the subject already. And I do believe surrogacy may well be a viable option for some couples. But what’s exercising my mind right now is the dividing line between a desperate ‘we need’ as against a petulant ‘I want’ – with real live children pawns in the game. And I guess it’s the juxtaposition with celebrity and wealth and selfish attitudes that’s disturbed me most.
Of course, I don’t have the ear of Kidman and her husband Keith Urban; there may be intimate factors about which I know nothing. But their story does prompt all sorts of questions. Off the top of my head:
a. What will baby Faith Margaret feel in years to come when she sees the news clippings of her parents thanking their ‘gestational carrier’ for her?
b. Is it right for anyone at any age to be encouraged to have children?
c. Should limits be imposed on assisting conception or pregnancy?
d. What sorts of circumstances justify ‘renting a womb’?
e. Does money buy happiness for children?
f. Should babies ever be saleable commodities?
g. Or the latest must-have accessory?
h. Are there doors which fame and fortune shouldn’t be able to open?
And I’m sure you’ll be able to think of plenty more.
I’m feeling the impact of these cases powerfully this week because I’m back to editing my forthcoming novel, Saving Sebastian. Sebastian Zair, is just four years old, a beautiful child, bright and lovable. But he suffers from a serious blood disorder. He requires frequent unpleasant treatments; his prognosis is grim. His parents, Yasmeen and Karim, are desperate to save his life. In order to give him a chance they’re seeking to create a matched child by IVF, using their own eggs and sperm. But the embryo will need to be carefully selected, other potential lives will be destroyed in the process, there are no guarantees. And consultant fertility expert, Justin Blaydon-Green, is juggling all sorts of competing interests; there’s already a shadow hanging over his unit, awkward questions are being asked. Campaigners are on the warpath. The press smell a story. But for the Zair family, time is running out …
Well, stack that against a convenient gift-wrapped bundle bought by celebrity parents … I rest my case.
Not good for my peace of mind, or my creative flow!
Thanks to my daughter’s vigilance, I’ve just found an amazing website, tailor made for people like me who don’t get round to noting programmes about ethical issues until it’s too late, or who forget the ones they’ve seen. If you share my obsession about ethics you’ll probably know about it already. But just in case I’m not the very last ostrich out of the sand, I’m going to share this discovery with you. And no, the BBC aren’t paying me a penny!
It’s http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/ and it gives information about religion and ethics programmes broadcast by the BBC on TV and radio – past, present and future, so pretty comprehensive. And of course, giving appropriate links. Loads of cross referencing and fascinating diversions. The usual suspects are there – abortion, euthanasia, assisted conception, sexual exploitation … arguments for and against, recent controversial cases, documentaries, drama, comment. It’s great to have one site that gives easy access to the more obscure references as well as prime-time coverage.
I’m off on my travels again this week, so it’s good to know in advance what’s coming up and to know exactly where I can go with one click to catch up the following week if trains don’t run to time, or the hotel stages a fire alarm at the wrong moment, or I get so lost in my latest Robert Goddard novel that I lose all track of the hour.