Austin Boyd is an award-winning author who writes extensively about faith issues related to technology and business. He and I met at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference, and have remained friends since. The author of six novels, Austin is a Christy Gold Medal finalist (The Proof, 2007) and the winner of the Mount Hermon “Pacesetter Award.” His latest novel, Nobody's Child, is the first of his bioethics series, The Pandora Files (Zondervan). I've invited Austin to tell my readers a bit about why he's chosen to write about this subject.
“Just because we can… should we?”
It’s a question that keeps me up at night. I sleep so little between a full time job and writing that you’d think I’d crash when I hit the pillow. But for some reason, implications of the future nag at me. Brave New World? Welcome to the world of Aldous Huxley, friend. We live in it.
In 2006, while writing my space suspense trilogy Mars Hill Classified, I researched cloning technologies to support a theme in my novels that tied to a belief many people share today. Namely, if we clone ourselves successfully, our “progenitors” from other planets will return and reveal themselves to us. Through that research, based on my background as a spacecraft engineer and physiologist, I discovered why we’ve landed in the middle of the Brave New World. It’s about how we treat the amazing ovum. A woman’s invisible germ of life.
Without a woman’s egg, you can’t clone. You can’t experiment with embryonic stem cells or create life in vitro. Eggs are the essential commodity in biotechnology and fertility treatments. That knowledge led me to the hypothesis that some women, desperate for cash, might sell their eggs to raise their standard of living. Sure enough, college girls, short on cash and short on wisdom, make “donations” of their eggs for $3000-$6000 per “harvest.” Most of them respond to an advertisement promising money to “women with high test scores who are tall, attractive, and physically fit.”
“But is it a donation if you get paid?” I wondered. Some famous beautiful women make tens of thousands of dollars for one hyper-stimulation of their ovaries and subsequent suction of their ovarian follicles. Other women are lowly paid “egg farms,” the source of genetic material to complete biomedical research. The common thread? Very few women understand the short-term health impacts of the ovary stimulation and donation procedure: possible infertility, cancer, stroke, or death. Even fewer, I discovered, consider the long-term consequence of their actions: the impact on their children… their eggs, become human. Our genetic material is precious… and we treat it casually at our peril.
So here’s the novel! What if a woman, desperate for cash, sold her eggs to pay for the medicine to save her father’s life? Would that justify her sacrifice? Is it possible to do the wrong thing, for the right reason?
Nobody’s Child poses tough questions in this, the first of The Pandora Files series of bioethics suspense novels set in the mountains of Appalachia. Just because we can do something, should we? Just because we can turn ova into profitable products, is that a good thing? Does the good that we do with money selling human eggs outweigh the pain we create in the life of a child whose mommy’s name is “donor?”
Ponder this. If eggs and sperm are materials that you can shop for on the Internet, what does that make the baby whom you create through their union? I propose that, if you purchase the gametes to create a baby, a child is reduced to a “commodity.”
Welcome to our Brave New World.
Wow, Austin. I said this would be thought-provoking, and it is. I look forward to reading Nobody's Child. Thanks for dropping by.