Friday, January 02, 2009

The Friday Challenge - 1/2/09

Ah, the end of another relaxing holiday week. I am so looking forward to going back to work on Monday morning. Maybe then I'll have a chance at finding a little rest, quiet, and sanity and at getting back to a predictable schedule.

The entries received for the 12/26/08 Friday Challenge are, in no particular order:

Torainfor, "Happy New Year"

Jamsco, "First Thursday Ogden: Two Surprise Visits"

Arisia, "New Year's Eve 2008"

Passinthrough, "Let the Cowboy Dance"

Snowdog, "Workin' Them Angels Overtime"

As always, even if you didn't submit an entry, you're invited to read, comment on, and vote for your favorite, with the winner to be announced Sunday evening.

Now, as for this week's challenge: I was thinking of a story I read in the newspaper a few weeks back about "snowflake children." If you're not familiar with the term, it refers to embryos left over from in vitro fertilization. Current techniques almost always produce more viable embryos than are actually implanted, and the spares are usually tucked away in the freezer, "for later."

The interesting part happens when "later" arrives. Sometimes the parents-to-be divorce. Sometimes one dies. Sometimes they change their minds and decide not to attempt another implantation after all. The question then becomes: what do you do with the frozen embryos? Especially in the case of divorce, this question can become the focus of some extremely intense and interesting legal maneuvering. Can a man be held responsible for supporting the child that his ex-wife, seven years after the divorce, decided to thaw and implant? Can a man be held responsible for the embryo that his ex-wife decided to thaw and implant in her lesbian girlfriend? If the original in vitro children turned out to well-mannered athletic geniuses, can the parents put the remaining frozen embryos up for sale on eBay?

Eh. Those are all the easy story ideas, and if Robin Cook hasn't written six novels on them already I'd be surprised. So let's push the envelope a little further and find the interesting and challenging ideas.

There are some fascinating things going on now on the frontiers of bioethics and biolegality. Do you actually own your own body? What about the bits and parts that come out of it during medical procedures? Can you patent a genetic sequence? A cell culture? If something unique from your body leads to a profitable medical breakthrough for a research hospital or pharmaceutical company, do they owe you royalties? (Some of these questions already have answers and I know them. I'm just tossing 'em out rhetorically to stimulate your thinking processes.)

How might the answers to these questions change if the government succeeds in taking over the health care industry?

There, that is the central idea for this week's Friday Challenge. It is now between 20 and 40 years in the future, and Universal National Health Care is a reality. Based on the principal that any unwanted biological material removed from your body during a medical procedure belongs exclusively to the health care provider — which is to say, to the government — what will they do with those snowflake children?

Alternatively, what would it be like to be one of those children?

As always, we're playing by the very relaxed rules of the Friday Challenge and playing for whatever is behind Door #2. The deadline is midnight Central time, Thursday, 1/8/09. And, since we've picked up a few new readers and contestants in recent weeks, I want to remind you all once again that this is supposed to be a relaxed and friendly competition.

Have fun,