Doctor Plays God, Church Blames Patient

In Genesis 1:29 God says, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.” But according to Tadeusz Pacholczyk, an ethicist and director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, God didn’t expect the help of the local infertility doctor in his population command.

“The procreation of children speaks to us of a real exclusivity between spouses, and when we violate that exclusivity by hiring outsiders to produce our offspring in clinics, or engage strangers to provide their sex cells for these procedures, we do so at our own peril and that of our children,” Pacholczyk told the Catholic News Agency last week. He was opining about fertility doctor Gerald Mortimer, who broke the law and used his own sperm to inseminate patients rather than the sperm chosen (and paid for) by the patients. The ethicist concluded that the patients—not the doctor—were the culpable parties.

Wow. There are so many things wrong with this, I’m not sure where to begin. First of all, a doctor inseminated a patient with his own sperm! In what world is this not a major assault on a woman’s body? How is this any different than rape? And why are we still debating whether or not rape is the woman’s fault?

Secondly, Mortimer is far from the first infertility doctor to get a God complex and illegally spread his seed across the world. In fact, there was even a Law and Order episode about it, back in 1995. Cecil Jacobson, a fertility doctor who used his own sperm to impregnate his patients without informing them, was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize in biology in 1992 for being a “relentlessly generous sperm donor, and prolific patriarch of sperm banking, for devising a simple, single-handed method of quality control.” He also he lost his medical license and was sentenced to five years in prison for fifty-two counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and perjury. And there are more; Mortimer is just the latest in a disgusting trend.

Pacholczyk’s position (and one could assume his is the position of the Catholic Church) that removing procreation from the exclusivity of the marriage bed means the woman must bear the responsibility of being assaulted by her doctor is no different than saying the woman deserved to be raped because she wore a short skirt or provocative blouse. And if you follow his statement further, Pacholczyk also seems to assert that the children created from insemination carry blame. Is it their fault they’re the product of medical rape? Or does Pacholczyk’s term “perils” refer more to congenital disabilities or some kind of innate badness? My guess is all of the above.

Obviously, LBGTQ couples are not included in this scenario; they are already far outside the Catholic definition of the marital bed.

But even more than victim blaming, Pacholczky is blaming science. Our innate need to know who we are and where we come from combined with the technological advancements of science has made it much easier to catch these medical rapists. Adult offspring innocently search for their genetic makeup through one of the many commercial DNA tests available and discover that their family tree isn’t quite the genetic makeup they expected. This is what happened to Kelli Rowlette, one of Mortimer’s illegal offspring. She is now suing him for $10 million. According to the article, she was “devastated” to learn she was the result of Mortimer’s assault on her mother. Take a moment to think through that scenario: you discover that your mother was assaulted by her physician and YOU are the result of that assault all at the same time. You discover that you don’t carry the genes of some carefully chosen sperm donor, but the genes of a rapist. This kind of discovery brings one’s whole identity into question. How could Rowlette be anything less than utterly devastated?

Pacholczky is suggesting that the science is the bigger evil, not the doctors who assault. Choosing to get medical assistance to conceive a child is a sin, regardless; and when you sin, the consequences you receive are deserved and yours alone to bear. I’m sure Pacholczky would say that with the right penance, God forgives this sin too, but that forgiveness can’t erase rape or the ruin of a child’s self-identity. Not even God can do that.

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