We held our Thirteenth Annual Paul Ramsey Award Dinner on April 16 in Diablo, California. It was a wonderful gathering where we were able to honor the legacy of Paul Ramsey by presenting Dr. Brent Waters with the Paul Ramsey Award for Excellence in Bioethics and by highlighting the work of our Paul Ramsey Institute. If you weren’t able to join us this year, I hope that you can plan to join us next year.
Near the end of the evening, Nathan George, a member of the CBC Board of Directors, gave a personal testimony of how he came to know about the Center for Bioethics and Culture, and why he enthusiastically supports our work. As I was listening to him speak, I knew I wanted to share his words with you. A lightly edited transcript of his remarks is below. I hope you find it as encouraging as I did.
Remarks by Nathan George
I have to confess; this is the first time I’ve spoken before a crowd or for an event like this. However, between you and me, I was pleased to see on the program that this is not a speech but just a personal testimony. So the pressure is off and I’m just here to tell you my story, which is really a story about why I’m here. Perhaps you’ll find a reason for why you’re here, if you haven’t already.
I met Jennifer Lahl through a triangulation of sorts. In early 2009, two former board members independently both strongly recommended that I meet Jennifer. Eventually, through an intimate and stimulating dinner at the home of James and Patricia Shinn, I also met long-time CBC consultant Wesley Smith and his wife Debra Saunders, and got plugged into his books. My interest in the work of the CBC was piqued from there.
Shortly thereafter, I took a group of guys to see a showing of CBC’s first documentary, Lines That Divide, on Berkeley’s campus where I was doing my PhD. But the personal connection for supporting and championing the work of the CBC came just a few short months later.
As a poor and married graduate student trying to make ends meet on a budget, my wife, Angela, came across an ad for egg donation. We went to San Francisco, to a conference room that was booked for a group of young women to come listen to someone from the IVF industry tell about how great egg “donation” was and about the couples we were going to help provide with a baby.
We proceeded with that process and filled out all of the forms about medical history. We were matched with a couple in Denver who were elated to meet with my wife. After submitting more paperwork, we were reviewed by their doctors. At the time, Angela was taking medication for migraines. They assured us there was nothing wrong with the medication she took and the medication they were going to give her as part of the egg donation, but still we felt uneasy about the process.
We thought about it, prayed about it, and took some time to process the implications. Angela eventually asked her personal physician about it. Immediately, he was nearly apoplectic, saying, “If you combine these two types of medication, you’re at very high risk of a stroke.” This was never told to us in the egg “donation” process. There was no well-informed “informed consent” in that process. The process was simply, “You’re going to help somebody. Don’t worry about it. It’s not going to hurt you.”
We have a moral responsibility to stay informed in such processes and to inform others when they may be unaware of the potential danger they face. CBC is really the guiding light in a lot of these fields. And sometimes the only light speaking and educating people on issues, events, stories we need to hear.
This is a tough job. On many of the issues, the CBC is just trying to take away someone’s dream, right? Deny a couple a child they can’t have otherwise. Deny a poor college student a way to make some extra money to pay for her books. Deny a mother a chance to provide a couple a chance to be parents, while making some money to provide for her own children.
Deny someone the chance to die when and how they choose. Or maybe deny someone the chance to live forever through computers, like the movie Chappie, or some other life-augmenting mechanism. The CBC is against creating life, freedom, free markets, even science(!), and the pursuit of happiness, right? That’s certainly what the other side would want you to believe.
But the truth is, this is about our humanity, about protecting the vulnerable, about true human flourishing, about our common human good. It’s about a truly human future.
We don’t shy away from challenges because they’re hard. Jennifer certainly hasn’t. She has taken so much verbal abuse on panel after panel, going into tough environments to change minds. And she has changed minds in these environments. Why? Because the other side of the story is compelling and needs to be heard.
Maggie’s Story is just one example of many that need to be told. Maggie “donated” her eggs a number of times, only to develop Stage IV breast cancer at a young age with no family history, which is why she was selected to give eggs in the first place.
Or Brittany Maynard’s story, with her husband fighting the wrong battle. The CBC actually broke the story that she “donated” eggs a number of times and developed a rare form of terminal brain cancer. But her husband fought for her to take her own life rather than questioning why she had the cancer in the first place.
That could have been my story—taking care of my wife who had a stroke before she was 30. Or breast cancer. Or not being able to have her own kids. Turning to surrogacy and egg donation. But that only perpetuates a cycle of fertility issues.
Fortunately for us, this wasn’t our story. We became informed because of the CBC.
We need more people to become informed. We need you to help us get there. How? Well, there’s social media. You can like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. You can put us at the first of your news feeds to read all the great articles that are put out by the CBC, repost them in your own news feeds. Tell your friends! And not just on Facebook, but in person. Watch and show our films.
But we also need your financial help. I’m reluctant simply to ask you to give money to support our work. That can be difficult. In my line of work as a real estate developer, I ask for money all the time, but that’s easy: I point to the returns, the track record, and the possible outcomes of what you can do with your money. So that’s what I’m going to do here.
Invest in the CBC. I can assure you the return on your investment is very promising. Look at our track record—the films produced, the broad-based exposure of these issues, and the impact of our message, educating the public, telling the other side of the story. We need your help to get that message out to the next poor college student considering egg donation, or to that stay-at-home military wife contemplating surrogacy.
I am asking you tonight to invest. Invest in the Center for Bioethics and Culture. Invest in a truly human future. Be part of what we are doing.
Thank you for allowing me to share my personal testimony of why I have invested in the CBC.
The Center for Bioethics and Culture is a non-profit 501(c)(3) public benefit educational organization. All gifts are tax-deductible.
Nathan George is a real estate developer and a Ph.D. candidate in Finance and Real Estate at the Haas Business School, University of California, Berkeley.
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.