Sunday, October 25, 2015

Another chimera in the news: man 'fails' paternity test

A little bugbear of mine: Chimeras.

A man is in the news today as a chimeric human because he 'failed a paternity test'. On further investigation, it turned out that the genetic makeup of his sperm producing cells is different from the genetic makeup of his blood producing cells, so a genetic test on his blood does not match the genetics of his offspring.

The man is not actually a monster

So far so obvious - lots of people are chimeras, for example, all women who have ever been pregnant. Fetal cells circulate in the mother's blood, settle down and become part of the mother. (Because this rarely impacts criminal identification or personhood ethics, it's not seen as important, and is called microchimerism.) But lots of fathers (and other people) are chimeras, because two embryos fused in their mother's womb to become one person. What riles me - my bugbear - is that they refer to this man's "dead twin", and "unborn twin", that he "absorbed the genes of his twin, who died early in the pregnancy."

"It is thought cells from a miscarried sibling were absorbed by the man while he was in the womb"
The Independent (Italics my own)

This is all codified anti-choice propaganda. It's important to the media that it pushes the idea that each person has "unique genes" and that a single cell "becomes a person" the minute (or rather the several hours) that sperm and egg fuse and become a cell with a new genetic makeup.

It's nonsense. Lots of pregnancies start out as multiples, and in some cases two different embryos become one, as in this man's case. Lots of pregnancies start out as single embryos that split, making identical twins, or more rarely, identical triplets. No one says that identical twins have only one soul between them, or only make up one person between them. Why would you say that one person "died" if two embryos become one? Only for propaganda purposes.

Telling this man "your twin died" could devastate him. In fact, both sets of cells were born, and he's both of them. And it's perfectly normal.

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