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Genetic ties and genetic mixups
  1. T H Murray,
  2. G E Kaebnick
  1. The Hastings Center, Garrison, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr G E Kaebnick, The Hastings Center, 21 Malcolm Gordon Road, Garrison, New York, 10524, USA;

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In a recent case in Great Britain, a couple described as “white” underwent in vitro fertilisation and gave birth to twins described as “black”. In the sense of a fair adjudication of this particular case, serving justice requires a thick description and a sensitive understanding of the relevant facts. We have only a few facts, but they may be sufficient to serve justice in this first sense.

We are told that the couple wants to keep the twins. We are told further that British law holds that the woman giving birth is to be regarded as the legal mother (although the father’s paternity is not conclusively established by the fact of his marriage to the babies’ mother). Finally, we are told that DNA testing has established that the gestational mother is also the genetic mother of these infants. Her husband, whose sperm were supposed to be used to fertilise his wife’s eggs, is not the genetic father. A black couple was also undergoing IVF at the same clinic; it may be that this man’s sperm were used by mistake.

We know enough to reach a defensible decision in the case. The couple caring for these children has contributed a half share of the children’s genes, and the woman was also the gestational mother, so they have at least an equal argument from biology. Their intention was to have these children and they also wish to raise them; they went through the rigours of IVF, and are willing to take on the responsibility of parenthood. Since the children were born, furthermore, they have shouldered the hard work of parenthood. We don’t know their particular circumstances; perhaps they’ve had help from family or others; but in all likelihood they’ve had an ample share of sleep deprived nights, soiled nappies, and exhausted days. …

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