IVF has always been controversial, Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards were
faced with scores of people claiming things like ' they were playing God' and
that 'any babies produced would not have a soul'. Fortunately when Louise Brown
born and people saw a healthy
baby, many of these issues were forgotten. However, as IVF technology develops
more and more ethical questions are raised.
IVF is now clearly accepted by the majority of the population and looking
back on recent IVF history it does seem that ethical considerations and opinions
are changing. Just
years ago treatment for single women and lesbian couples was very difficult
to find, as was sex selection, now it is easily
possible to find clinics who will accomodate these wishes.
The following questions are
not answered (occasionally points of interest are added in italic blue).
Comments are invited below.
At what point should pre-embryos/embryos be considered to have human
rights? Is "creating", discarding, freezing, or manipulating them
Pope Benedict XVI stated in June 2006,
The human being has the right to be generated, not produced, to come to life
not in virtue of an artificial process but of a human act in the full sense of
the term: the union between a man and a woman".
- " Never before in history has human procreation,
and therefore the family, which is its natural place, been so threatened
as in today's culture. Procreation
always take place within the family."
- " They need to be aware that true love is
only that which comes from the union of a man and a woman."
- " A true family comes from the union of
two people from different sexes."
should decide what is appropriate in IVF? Politicians? The Church? Scientists?
single women be allowed access to IVF in order to have children? Is there
a need for a father? Should homosexual male or female couples be allowed access
to IVF treatment in order to have children?
UK MPs (June 2006) have called for an end to the
right of fertility clinics to refuse treatment to single women and lesbians.
debate was triggered
by the Commons science and technology committee report in 2005 on the issue,
who described the current
rules regarding unconventional families as "offensive".
Is it responsible to allow so
many multiple pregnancies or reductions due to IVF treatment?
UK law now tries to limit this and only
permits a maximum of 2 embryos to be transferred except in very special circumstances.
Who should be responsible for funding IVF? Patients? Insurance companies?
How long should embryos be allowed to be frozen? If they go past that time
should they be destroyed? Should frozen embryos be destroyed if patients stop
paying the storage fees?
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD).
PGD is used to test embryos prior to transfer into the uterus. Part of the
embryo is used for this procedure and is removed from the embryo. This selection
of "healthy" embryos
is sometimes referred to in news articles as "Designer Embryos".
So should PGD be used at all?
Should PGD be used only for detecting very serious, life threatening
conditions and not for minor genetic abnormalities?
This is the current advise of the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority,
Is it OK to genetically select an embryo which
would be a near perfect match for a sibling with a
life threatening disorder?
Should PGD be only available to those who can afford it?
Is sex selection wrong? Is selecting embryos with certain traits or characteristics
Cloning and Stem cells
Is there ever a case where human reproductive cloning is acceptable? The production
of a new life? Replacing a dead child?
Is it OK to use cloning technology to create stem cells (therapeutic cloning)
to help cure disease?
Should cloning research be regulated? Who should police it? Can this be achieved
on a global basis?
If potential parents can only have a child through cloning do they have that
What are the physical and psychosocial consequences of cloning on the child?
What is the impact on familial and societal relations? What will be the potential
effects on the human gene pool?