Living Proof, by Kira Peikoff. New York: Tor Books, 2012.

368 pp. $25 (hardcover).


In her debut novel, Living Proof, Kira Peikoff addresses one of the hottest issues today—religious dogma versus individual rights—in the form of a conflict between the “rights” of embryos and the rights of people to engage in embryonic stem cell research.

Living Proof is set in the not-too-distant future, the year 2027, in which the government has placed bans on any type of research on embryos and embryonic stem cells as part of an embryonic rights movement. The legal manifestation of this movement is the Department of Embryo Preservation, or DEP, whose sole purpose is to ensure that no embryos are used for research or destroyed in any way. The devoutly religious director of the DEP, Gideon Dopp, prides himself on his position at “the noblest of all government agencies” (p. 332), where he is responsible for “weeding out sinners to protect innocents” (p. 331). He makes it his personal goal to ensure that no embryos are harmed.

[The DEP] mandated that all fertility clinics “preserve the soul of every embryo.” In keeping with the law, the department required that clinics report, once a month, the number of embryos left over from every patient’s attempt at in vitro fertilization—a number the inspectors verified with their visits. To ensure accurate reporting, the department periodically conducted random audits. . . . (p. 14)

If an unfortunate doctor fails an audit, there are “serious consequences for the clinic: probation and heavy fines” (p. 15). The authorities mete out far more severe punishments for the “crime” of destroying an embryo, an act that is grounds for shutting down the clinic and charging the doctor responsible with first-degree murder. . . .

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