Ethical Issues in Assisted Reproductive Technology by Grace Haughton

[ By on December 18, 2016 ]

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a form of medical intervention in the development of a pregnancy. ART is commonly used in order to improve an infertile woman, or couple’s chance of becoming pregnant – infertility being clinically defined as being unable conceive a child after 12 months of active attempts. ART involved the separation of procreation and sexual intercourse through techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT); gestational surrogate mothering, gamete donation, sex selection, and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

Assisted reproductive technology often raises complicate ethical questions for the health care professionals using the technology and the individuals involved in the process. One ethical dilemma surrounds the issue of preserving and creating embryos. Often, couples using ART fertilize as many eggs as possible, and freeze remaining eggs for use at a later time. While many of these eggs are later used, several remain untouched, and often the individuals involved in the process are unsure about what decision to make. Some stop paying storage fees, and leave the clinic with the remaining eggs, and for ethical and legal reasons, clinics are hesitant to dispose of embryos without proper consent. An estimated 600,000 cryopreserved embryos rest in clinics in the United States.

In addition, assisted reproductive technology is becoming increasingly expensive, thus there are questions raised about the ethics of the cost of reproductive assistance. Treatment for infertility in itself has become a competitive, lucrative business, gaining nearly $3.5 billion dollars per year. Is the cost of ART ethical? Should technology that has the capacity to create human life be turned into a competitive, money making industry?


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3 Comments on “Ethical Issues in Assisted Reproductive Technology by Grace Haughton”

  1. KNF

    You raised an essential point at the end of this post. It’s not just an issue of whether or not ART should be a money-making industry; there’s also a question about how the cost of ART dictates who can access it. In the U.S., most health insurance companies don’t cover many costs associated with ART — not to mention the millions of people who are uninsured. Is there an ethical difference between a cost barrier to ART and a cost barrier to other medical services?

  2. KNF

    Let’s consider the ethical question of our current population, for instance. With ART, we’re artificially _increasing_ the population when our independent biology says ‘no’. While humanity seeks technology to solve problems, is it ethical to utilize that technology to promote life when said life seems to be demanding resources in such a way as to prevent life from success/sustainability? I would say no. If the body is incapable of reproduction, then that’s something we have to accept. A typical argument in favor of preventing these types of technology are the number of homeless youth, youth up for adoption, and special needs adults who all need ‘a home’. If someone is looking to truly give of their heart and support another human being, and their body can’t facilitate biological reproduction, why not meet those wants by taking up one (or more) of those three options?

  3. KNF

    Not only are there questions of how to dispose of unused embryos, there are questions of who has a right to them in the event of separation, divorce or death of one or both of the original man and woman involved. And what happens if there is a third party that wants to use the embryos for medical research that could benefit humanity? Who gets to say what happens in those cases?

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