Is Mr Bumble Right?


There’s nothing like nature and wildlife in general for keeping you well and truly earthed. I’ve just had a whole week of real life. Look at that photo. I daresay the raspberries look fine, except that they are an autumn fruiting variety so they are about five or six weeks too early; consequently they are smaller than they should be and not nearly as sweet. In the middle is a carrot (you may laugh) which is stunted and twisted and is, moreover, smaller than the travesty of a radish next to it. Radishes are supposed to be the easiest of any vegetable to grow, yet look at the pathetic misshapen mite there. I have also seen a rabbit in the rabbit proof vegetable plot.

Nor is that the end of my troubles. For the first time in 20 years a heron has discovered my pond. He devoured a dozen fish for breakfast one morning, leaving me with two, which he had as a small snack the following day.

Finally, there’s Archie. The other evening, when I was called away to the phone, he managed to eat several oatcakes topped with smoked salmon and one of my hearing aids.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother, but then I read something which strikes me as both horrible and bizarre and I think at least I am too well grounded, almost literally, to get seduced along some of the more outrageous paths of modern life.

When will people learn that because something is possible, it doesn’t have to be done, and in many cases it should not be done. What is so frightening is that, in a way, this is typical of the world in which we live, where what we want is all that matters. It can be done. I want it done. Therefore it must be done.

Here’s the headline from a news item on the BBC and in various papers on 30th June, that gave me pause for serious thought—and many worries.

“Woman, 60, wins fight to give birth to her dead daughter’s baby using her frozen eggs.”

The daughter, referred to as AM in the judgement, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in her early twenties, so she had some of her eggs frozen. Apparently, she had never wavered in her wish to become a mother. Just before she died five years later in 2011 she asked her mother to have a baby for her with those eggs. Her mother, Mrs M, says it was her daughter’s dying wish. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) had refused the request because it claimed AM had failed to fill in all the necessary forms with the result that the case has been fought through the courts over the last five years. Finally, the Court of Appeal has overturned the High Court’s decision, calling their judgement ‘flawed.’

Flawed? Something definitely is. This 60 year old (OK, 80 is the new 60, but 60 is still old for motherhood) is now going to fly to New York to be impregnated with anonymous donor sperm before, presumably, coming back to wait for nine months before delivering – who? What? A baby who lost its mother six years before it was born and who has no meaningful father.

I understand all too well what Mrs M has been through and where she’s coming from. What I cannot begin to understand is where she thinks she is going.

The parents have spent years of emotional energy fighting to bring into this world a human being who will effectively be orphaned from birth. Surely, what matters above all else, is the child. The HFEA have been absolutely right to oppose this action. They were able to do so for technical legal reasons, but since they spend most of their time with the products of their work – the babies – they have a much better idea of what is involved and it is the child that seems to be missing in all this.

I read the judgement—all 21 pages of it—wondering what the judges themselves were really thinking as they considered their verdict. They had to apply the law which focussed entirely on whether AM had indeed made clear her wishes and signed enough bits of paper on which to proceed. The baby wasn’t really mentioned; it seemed as if ticking all the right boxes was more important than considering the creation and well-being of an actual human being.

So that’s all right, then, isn’t it. All totally legal, and definitely in line with an individual’s right to have it all. To quote Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist—‘the law is an ass—a idiot.’ Once again, I’m on the misfitting side of Common Sense.




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