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The advent of IVF and advances in reproductive technologies largely reflect the importance in our society of biological parenthood and genetic kinship. As illustrated in the controversy piece by Merle Spriggs,1 however, the same technology has confused our understanding of what makes a parent.
An embryo mixup in Britain has resulted in a white couple giving birth to two black twins. Genetic tests have established that the wrong sperm was used to inseminate the ova of the white woman who gave birth to the twins. The two couples involved are apparently both seeking custody. Who should have parental rights and responsibilities for the twins?
While once it may have been obvious who a child’s parents were and who had obligations and claims with regard to children, the separation of genetic, gestational, and nurturing roles now makes it impossible to “discover” who is the real parent. As Ruth Macklin points out, the question: “Which role should entitle a woman to a greater claim on the baby in the case of a dispute?” is a moral question which cannot be answered by discovery, say through a blood test, but is a matter for decision.2 Which are the morally …