Like most people, I saw the story of the couple who had the wrong embryos implanted by their fertility clinic. Obviously, that was one heck of mistake and indicates that the clinic needs to reassess how it labels and tracks embryos. This does provide a rather extreme example of the sorts of easy to fix errors that can cause so much trouble.
What struck me the most about this story was the fact that the couple decided that the embryo would be brought to term and then given to his/her biological parents. When asked about this, the couple made it clear that their decision was based on their values.
Since I teach ethics, I find this very interesting indeed. Naturally, I also find it interesting as a person. It is, to say the least, morally commendable for the woman to go through this experience knowing that she will be giving up the child. As far as I know, she is not receiving any compensation from the other couple for this. Of course, the fertility clinic certainly owes her for the mistake they made.
Switching back to philosopher mode, I cannot help but compare this to the famous violinist analogy that has been used in the moral debate over abortion. While the cases are different, here is a case in which a woman has been implanted with a “non-related” embryo and is faced with the choice of keeping it or having an abortion. As noted above, she elected to act in what many would regard as a commendable way.
Of course, some might contend that she had no obligation to do this (even though it would be awfully nice to do so). After all, while she chose to be implanted, she did not chose to be implanted with another couple’s embryo. This would seem to provide adequate moral grounds for having an abortion. After all, to force her to bear the child of another would certainly seem to place an unreasonable burden on the woman. Or would it? Is anyone willing to argue that she was not just really nice to do this, but also morally obligated to do so?