What is it that makes people so uncomfortable about admitting to an emotional basis for thoughts or actions? Or put it another way, have we become so gripped by the need to be rational and scientific that we have become fearful of emotions? So much so that an emotional basis for thought or action is sometimes seen as somehow less worthy of being taken seriously than one based strictly on rational thinking. Of course we all need to regulate our emotions, know how to manage them and understand their impact on others but without these feelings I believe we are reduced to mere automatons. Human beings are above all relational animals. We need other people to help understand who we are and sensitivities to the emotions of both ourselves and others are fundamental to the making and maintaining of relationships…both in the family and at work. Emotional responses to the situations we find ourselves in are a normal part of being human. Gut feelings, intuition, being in touch with our emotions, can help keep us safe and are often the best guide in telling us how to respond and what to do. Sometimes it is also good to listen to them and then wait a bit to see if feelings change before taking action. I am listening to my own gut at the moment and it is telling me that I need to temper what I say about one of the two things that triggered this post. I’ll just write about the other one.
I am a huge admirer of Progress Educational Trust. They do really good work educating both professionals and a lay audience on matters to do with assisted reproduction, embryo research and genetics. But their response to the consultation by Nuffield Bio-Ethics on the Ethical Aspects of Information Disclosure in Donor Conception is chilling in the way it distances itself from the emotional aspects of information provision to donor conceived people and potential parents.
Take the question ‘What information might a donor-conceived person need about the donor, either during childhood or once they become an adult? Please explain.’
The response from PET is as follows – ‘It is not axiomatic that donor-conceived people, during childhood or adulthood, need any information about the donor(s) from whose donation they were conceived. It is possible for donor-conceived people to ascribe emotional importance to any type of information about donors, in which case access to such information may be a necessity in the opinion of those donor-conceived people. While donor-conceived people should be able to obtain, on request, information (to which they are legally entitled) that the donor has provided, it does not necessarily follow from this that donors should be encouraged to give more than the rudimentary information that has been legally required of them since the entitlement to donor anonymity was removed in the UK. It is not the place of the UK fertility regulator , or any other authority, to make or encourage any pejorative assumptions about the amount of information that a gamete donor provides.’
A very similar response is given to the question about the information that parents might need about a donor in order to enable them to carry out their parenting role.
Not only is emotion downgraded to something almost shameful, but the role of information in helping parents to feel comfortable and confident about their donor – a vital ingredient contributing towards the likelihood of parents being open with their children – is completely ignored. Also the visceral need of some donor conceived people to know and understand the person who has contributed to their existence is dismissed as ‘merely emotional’, although these are not the actual words used. There may well be a strong emotional component but I would say, what’s wrong with that, why should it be a reason for denying them what they need…particularly if information about being donor conceived has been withheld from them during formative years.
I am sad and disappointed that an organisation that sets out to explain science to the lay person could show a less than human face when confronted by a topic that inevitably must have an emotional component. Can it be ethical to ignore such an important dimension of human nature and experience?
Read for yourselves at http://www.progress.org.uk/ncobdc