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Outside the Womb: Moral Guidance for Assisted Reproduction Paperback – January 1, 2011
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“Rae and Riley offer a thorough, thoughtful look at the complexities of assisted reproduction from philosophical, theological, and scientific points of view. This book provides answers to the mind-boggling questions raised by new developments in reproductive technology. It’s a resource I recommend highly."
The Colson Center for Christian Worldview
"A rare blend of scientific information, biblical guidance, and empathy for those struggling with infertility. You won't find a better or more readable resource."
David Stevens, MD
Chief Executive Officer, Christian Medical and Dental Associations
“In addition to the emotional anguish experienced by couples with infertility, the treatment options now available through assisted reproduction present them with both a moral and scientific minefield. Scott Rae and Joy Riley do a superb job of unraveling the mystery and navigating the reader through this minefield.”
Gene Rudd, MD (obstetrician/gynecologist)
Senior Vice President, Christian Medical Association
"If you are looking for moral guidance on assisted reproduction that combines empathy with ethics, biblical teaching with contemporary application, and simple explanations with profound insights regarding IVF, IUI, GIFT, ZIFT, egg donation, surrogate motherhood, and prenatal genetic testing, then you've come to the right place. Congratulations to Drs. Rae and Riley for an outstanding contribution!"
John F. Kilner, Ph.D.
Professor of Bioethics and Contemporary Culture and Director of Bioethics Programs, Trinity International University
"Where Catholic thinking has long been present in a theological ethic of the body, Rae and Riley make much-needed contributions that greatly add to the debate from a Protestant point of view. While their views on assisted reproductive technologies differ from my own, Outside the Womb is a thought-provoking and timely encouragement to think carefully and critically about these matters."
President, The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network
About the Author
D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A. is board-certified in internal medicine and has a master's degree in bioethics from Trinity International University. The executive director of The Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture, she writes and speaks on a variety of bioethics topics, with special interest in reproductive technologies, medical ethics, and stem cell research. She and her husband, an obstetrician/gynecologist, have three sons and live in Brentwood, TN.
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Rae and Riley do tackle the issues from the viewpoint of Protestant Evangelicals because that is what they are and it is the basis upon which their ethics are formed. At the very basis is their belief that all human life is formed in the image of God and that has serious and broad implications across the entire spectrum of ART.
If you do not accept the image of God as the underlying condition of human life, skip this book. If you do accept that presupposition, and are concerned with ART, this work provides an excellent starting point for your deliberations.
My husband and I are currently going through IVF, so a title like "Outside the Womb: Moral Guidance for Assisted Reproduction" definitely caught my attention. As it turns out, I couldn't be a worse audience for this book. First of all, the title of this book *really* should be "Outside the Womb: Protestant Christian Guidance for Assisted Reproduction" because the only ethical source used here is the Protestant Christian Bible. I have no problem with literature designed to cater to a specific demographic, but books should be *labeled* as such and "moral guidance" implies to me a much broader range than just Christian doctrine.
Literally nothing is consulted in this book except carefully excised passages from the Bible, and the authorial interpretation of those passages. There's no mention of the science or technology behind infertility or assisted reproduction; in fact, the book claims that "infertility - as well as all illnesses or difficulties - is a result of the entrance of sin into the world". The author is a Biblical literalists who believes that Adam and Eve existed and that the "first family" should be modeled in all reproductive choices. He insists that "third party participation" in reproduction (i.e., surrogacy, donated eggs, donated sperm, donated embryos) is not God's plan for people's lives. (The concubines that the Biblical patriarchs had are excused here as being "property". I'm not sure what we're supposed to take from this - "Don't use donated eggs, but buying them is peachy"? I really don't know.)
The "ethical situations" this book proposes to address are strawman cases that will not apply to 99.9% of people. In the case of the "moral repercussions" of donated sperm, the book seriously poses the question "Is this adultery?" (And is that really a concern in the modern Christian community? Because when I was a kid, if private parts didn't touch, you were good as far as God was concerned.) There's also the "what if two lesbians have an IVF child and then they break up five years later?" panic button, and it's particularly insulting that there's no corresponding "what if a man and a woman have an IVF child and they break up five years later?" question in ethics. I guess it's only a moral issue if lesbians are involved? (By the way, the author insists that two-person, heterosexual marriage is the only marriage that counts as far as God is concerned, so if you happen to not fit in that bucket, this book *definitely* isn't for you.)
So obviously I was the wrong audience for this book, but if you're a young, heterosexual, Protestant Christian in need of assisted reproduction, then this book should be very interesting, right? Unfortunately, no; the authors just serve up a bunch of lukewarm theology about how frozen embryos should never be left in storage because it's moral to try to carry them all to term, with the implication that if your embryos are disposed of, you're probably a murderer. Since most people can't afford to go back for multiple sessions (it's not uncommon for IVF to cost 10 grand or more), this means that most patients who take this advice will try to convince their physicians to shove all the embryos in on a single try, which is dangerous for both the woman AND the embryos. This "theology" has little relation to what's actually in the Bible and ultimately boils down to "because I said so" on the part of the author. The whole book feels like a cheap cash-in at best and a screed on the "evils" of family planning at worse, especially when it starts asking if older women should be legally barred from using their embryos.
I actually consider this book to be massively harmful for anyone struggling with infertility. Infertility is very emotionally and physically trying, and I think it's reprehensible to make someone feel guilty for considering using donated eggs or donated sperm because God doesn't want "third party" DNA in your family; or for couples to suddenly feel pressured to become the next OctoMom because the authors have decided that donating unused embryos to infertile couples or leaving the unused embryos in frozen storage is somehow immoral because 'the Bible says so', even though it doesn't. Maybe some theologians may find this book interesting and worthy of debate, but if you're looking at this because you're personally going through assisted reproduction, I would recommend giving this book a complete pass.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.
~ Ana Mardoll