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Everyday Ethics

When I first read the MSNBC headline, “Woman Implanted with Wrong Embryo to Give Birth”, I moved straight past it, thinking it sounded a bit too much like a supermarket tabloid to interest me.
I’m glad I took a closer look, because I now feel it’s a story worthy of the “Moral Monday” title – though also incredibly sad.

According to this account of Mike and Carolyn Savage’s TODAY show interview, soon after the couple received the happy news that their in vitro fertilization process was a success, they  learned that Carolyn had been implanted with the wrong embryo.
Faced with this shocking reality, the Savages had a choice – aborting the pregnancy, or seeing it through, only to give up the baby in the end.

Their decision to carry the baby to term is not why I applaud them. Or, I suppose, it’s not that in particular–their choice is, after all, incredibly brave. However, it’s their handling of the pain and disappointment, as well as their kindness and understanding of the emotional toll on everyone involved that particularly touched me. Carolyn told Meredith Viera:

“What we expressed to them is that we know they did not ask for this. They were at home with their family minding their own business. We are not going to impress ourselves into their lives. Of course, we will wonder about this child every day for the rest of our lives. We have hopes for him, but they’re his parents, and we’ll defer to their judgment on when and if they ever tell him what happened and any contact that’s afforded us. We just want to know he’s healthy and happy.”

The Savages followed their personal code of ethics straight down the line, under the toughest of circumstances. If they hadn’t–if they had made the ‘other’ choice–would we be forced to brand that choice as unethical?

I would be forced to say yes, though ethics don’t often account for the state of humanity and all the complex emotions that tag along with it. I suppose it would also depend on whose code of ethics you subscribe to; that of a higher power that states all life is precious, or that which states you have no obligation to anyone other than yourself and the ones you love.

What do you think? Did the Savages make the most ethical of choices, the kindest and most generous of choices, or…both?

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