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Infertility and bioethical issues of the new reproductive technologies


, : Infertility and bioethical issues of the new reproductive technologies. Psychiatric Clinics of North America 12(1): 117-131

The scientific breakthroughs resulting in the delivery of Louise Brown in 1978 have opened the floodgates for an ongoing bioethical discussion about medically assisted reproduction. The majority in our society has accepted in vitro fertilization as an ethically justifiable procedure for infertile couples. The concern persists, however, that new reproductive technology has started us on the course of a slippery slope with potentially dire consequences for the so-created children, the traditional family, and, indeed, for society as a whole. The moral status of the embryo is the central issue in debates about such reproductive developments as the "spare" embryo, embryo freezing, embryo donation, embryo research and micromanipulation. Conflicts of interests between the adult's desire to become a parent and the welfare of the offspring are at the root of moral objections raised against manipulation of human reproduction. Extracorporal conception with the possibility for various gamete donors has also brought the long-practiced procedure of artificial insemination by donor and the potential consequences for the child into the discussion. Surrogate mothering and surrogate gestational mothering force us to redefine the age old dictum mater certa est and can render the child a helpless pawn in parental, emotional, and legal strife. Over the ages, society has through firmly established values exerted control over reproduction and acceptance of the new member in the community. Sex without reproduction was a severe blow to the highly regarded societal belief in parenting as the epitomy of life goals. Reproduction without sex through various technically feasible collaborative means further jolts fundamental traditional values and mandates their re-evaluation. Ethical belief systems are by nature highly charged and fiercely defended. Thus, in a pluralistic society, a consensus on the question "What ought to be done of all that can be done with new reproductive technologies?" is probably unachievable. Heated controversies between interest groups constitute an additional psychological burden complicating the ethical ambiguities for some infertile couples who have to decide about using noncoital conception. The interdisciplinary group report by the ethics committee of the American Fertility Society published in the "Ethical Considerations of the New Reproductive Technologies" constitutes a wide framework of guidelines for rational consideration. It will, one hopes, help to formulate needed regulations because some segments of our society as well as many scientists and physicians in the field believe that not all that potentially can be done ought to be done.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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PMID: 2652103


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