Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Frozen Angels": an examination of surrogate parenting and implications for eugenics

I’m a little surprised with myself that I missed the PBS POV film “Frozen Angels” back in 2005, now available from Netlfix.  This is a thorough look at surrogate parenting and the eugenics implied by the capability.  The film, which offers only an old-style 4:3 aspect ratio, is directed by Erick Black and Frauke Sandig. The film examines the practice around Los Angeles, especially in “The Valley” and then around Long Beach.
As the documentary (produced partly by ITVS, Umbrella Films and German company ZDF) opens, an attractive young white woman is interviewed by an African-American woman to become a surrogate mother for a white couple.  It gets personal.  Later, the woman says she had never thought about some issues, like whether she would offer surrogacy for a gay male couple. She also says she does not think of herself as the mother.
Later the documentary shows some other processes: women with difficult conceiving do have in vitro fertilization from their husbands, and then eggs are examined for genetic issues and only the most desirable future baby is chosen and planted into the surrogate mother.
The film then goes toward the moral implications.  At one time (around 1930), American legislators complained that the Germans were “ahead of us” in that area.  We know what happened.  Now, we fight governments with forced eugenics (or even ethnic cleansing) programs, but we allow private citizens to practice it through a back door. 
The film even mentions experiments at Case Western Reserve (Cleveland) to give humans an extra chromosome for desirable traits.  We could create a new “species” that cannot have children with the natural one.  We could have “engineered” and “natural” people.  It’s pretty easy to imagine the science fiction scripts. 
There’s also another personal question.  If we can make superhuman (as with “powers”), how do we feel personally about relationships with “ordinary people”.
The music was “Children of Kings” composed and performed by Jorg Seibold.


The film ends with some impressive shots of Long Beach at night, and a chopper right out of Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts”.   


Update: Feb. 26

The FDA is considering long term testing of a procedure where an ovum of a mother with certain genetic diseases in mitochondrial DNA could be modified with the DNA from another mother and then replanted.   Is this "Brave New World"?  CNN has a story of the "3-parent babies" here. 

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