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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More evidence that IVF makes things weird

A recent court case involves a young girl who was conceived by IVF two years after her father died. The mother wants the child to collect survivor's benefits from her father's Social Security. On the one hand, we all have sympathy for the mother and the child, and this is not about that. I am willing to bet that the family has basically sound ethical principles and is acting according to what they believe to be right. On the other hand, it smells an awful lot like -- in the hands of the unscrupulous -- a way someone can abuse the system.

Normally, survivor benefits are for people who survive the death of a parent or spouse. So, normally, one has to be alive before one can be a survivor. The benefits are to help reduce the financial burden that the survivors are experiencing due to the loss of the wage-earning family member. Many states have laws permitting survivor benefits only if the child was conceived while the deceased was still alive. This child, however, experienced no loss of anything she had, because she was conceived and born in a particular and known economic situation, two years after the man's death.

Some states permit widows to conceive by their late husbands through artificial means up to two years after the man's death, for the children to qualify for survivor's benefits. So, the law has a cut-off, but how long will that last? Seriously, what is the difference between a child born within 24 months and one born within 25 months? The cut-off seems arbitrary and in principle cannot stand. Every child that is recognized as the deceased's offspring should qualify for benefits, regardless of when he was conceived. That would include children conceived by the widow, as well as any other woman, because illegitimate children also get survivor's benefits.

I have to admit that I do not know enough about how Social Security benefits work. Is there a certain amount that gets divided among surviving children? Or does each survivor get a certain amount, and more survivors that get conceived later (see how weird that is?) will get the same amount? It's probably the latter up until a certain maximum is reached, after which they split the maximum evenly. Well, then, there's an incentive to have as many posthumous kids for your husband, up to the maximum benefit. If there is no maximum, you can see how this could become a way of working the system.

And how does this apply for widowers, using their late wives' frozen ova for IVF? Just a question.

At any rate, IVF makes things weird. Like the 4-1/2-year-old kid who survived hurricane Katrina 6 years ago. They named him Noah. I'm glad he survived and that he's in the world, but you have to admit that it's just plain strange to be a survivor of something that happened two years before you were born.

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