June 26, 2014

In Vitro Fertilization unwise

Embryos float in a petri dish held by Dr. David Diaz,
 an Orange County, California, fertility doctor
 (Seatle Times, October 12, 2008)


By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, June 26, 2014

In Vitro Fertilization unwise

Is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) wise? I don't think so. Let's examine IVF and its pros and cons.

IVF means fertilization "in glass," that is, fertilization in a test tube or Petri dish.

The IVF procedure involves the following steps: (1) a woman's ovaries are stimulated to release multiple eggs; (2) 5-15 eggs are extracted (via minor surgery); (3) sperm is obtained from a donor (via masturbation); (4) eggs and sperm are placed in a Petri dish where fertilization occurs; (5) up to three embryos are placed in a woman's uterus; (6) remaining embryos are frozen.

If IVF is successful, an embryo implants in the uterus and a baby is born nine months later. If not successful, leftover embryos are thawed and more embryos are implanted.

IVF pros/ "pros":

● IVF allows a woman and her husband to have a child if they otherwise have difficulty with getting pregnant. If needed, a donor's sperm or egg can be used.

● Older women whose eggs risk defects may use a donor's egg with her husband's or a donor's sperm.

● IVF makes it possible for women who can't bear children themselves to have their eggs fertilized by their husband (or sperm donor) and use a surrogate mother.

Lesbian couples can have a child using an egg from one partner, sperm from a donor, then have the baby carried to term by the other partner.

● Gay men can have a child, too: egg from a donor, add sperm from one partner, add a surrogate mother.

● Conceivably (sorry) single men and women, gay or straight, could have their own children by using their own or a donor's sperm/ eggs plus a surrogate mother, if needed.

Parents could find egg/sperm donors with specific qualities to create a child of their choice.

IVF concerns/ questions:

● Up to three embryos are placed in the uterus. But what if, as is not uncommon, there's more than one implantation? Possible problems: (1) too many children, thereby perhaps risking mother's health; (2) "selective termination," i.e., abortion of the extra child/ children.

● IVF usually creates more frozen embryos than needed. What about the "leftovers"? Garbage? Research? But science tells us that the human embryo is a human being. Surely, discarding or doing research on human embryos (research that destroys them) is a moral concern. Should embryo creation cease until the frozen leftovers have been implanted or adopted?

● Do biologically-based moral obligations to the IVF child accrue to sperm and egg donors? Biological parents have moral obligations to their offspring—we sue biological fathers for child support because they are biological fathers. So what about the sperm donors who become biological fathers? What about the egg donors who become biological mothers? Do egg and sperm donors violate a nature-based moral duty to their children? Is this unjust to children?

● When sperm and egg donors—i.e., the biological parents—are anonymous, their IVF children struggle deeply with personal identity. For a child, knowledge of and being loved by his/ her biological mother and father are important. But anonymous sperm and egg donors obliterate this connection. Is this unfair to children?

● IVF creates markets for women's eggs and egg harvesting presents serious health risks to women. Is this "eggsploitation"—the exploitation of women for their eggs?

● IVF creates markets for surrogate mothers. Are women (especially vulnerable women) now exploited for their wombs? Does IVF contribute to the creation of a sub-class of women—a.k.a. "breeders"?

● IVF-created people should be loved and respected. But do IVF efforts to create "designer babies" turn children into commodities?

● Finally, what about the many already-born, non-IVF children who need parents? Should they be rescued first? Should their adoption occur instead of IVF?

Is IVF wise? I think the cons outweigh the pros.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University CollegeThe views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)

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