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Monday, December 5, 2011

If no adoption agency will give you a child, should you have one on your own anyway?


A man and his wife – both M.D.s – have a daughter but also want to have a second child.  Before they do, he is diagnosed with multiple endocrine neoplasia, a rare genetic condition that triggers tumor growth.  They test their daughter, who turns out to be free of the genetic condition.  They approach an adoption agency for help in having a second child, but the agency turns them away because of the man’s genetic condition.  The couple then have another child on their own.  By the time the child reaches 9 months, they are still uncertain about whether to test him for the disorder.

I know that adoption policies want to entrust children to parents who are likely to be around for a while, a long while.  Yet in this particular case, that policy seems to have backed this couple into a corner.  If they wanted another child, they would have to do it on their own.  It does not appear that they turned to reproductive experts for help, else they could have tried to conceive in vitro and carried out pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.  As things stand, they might well have conceived a child with the very genetic condition that disqualified the father from adoption, the very condition that killed the man’s own father and uncle.  A more flexible adoption policy might have looked at the prospects of the family unit as a whole, since – after all – there are lots of single parents out there, as a consequence of one parent dying unexpectedly.  With an adopted child, the parents would probably not have gambled on bringing another child into the world with this disorder.   

What’s worse here:  that a father of an adopted child dies prematurely, or that this same man gambles on having a genetically-related child with the same genetic disorder that afflicts him?

For more details of the case, see Lisa Sanders, “Nerves or something worse?,” New York Times Magazine, Dec. 4, 2011, pp. 24, 25.

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