Is IVF ethical?
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a form of assisted reproductive technology where a woman’s mature eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab to create embryos then transferred to a female’s uterus. A full IVF cycle can take three weeks. Per 2020 data, IVF cycles have “globally increased to more than 2 million per year,” with over 8 million babies having been born via this method worldwide.
- The world’s first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, was created through IVF and born on July 25, 1978, in Oldham, England.
- Unused IVF-made embryos are either discarded or frozen indefinitely unless the owner chooses to donate them for adoption. An estimated 1.5 million frozen embryos are in the US as of 2022.
- The success rate of IVF has better chances for a woman younger than 35 and drops about 10% with every couple of years. At 35, chances are 47.2%, while over 40 is 7.2%.
- A 2023 Pew Research survey revealed that 42% of Americans say they “have used fertility treatments or personally know someone who has”.
Over the last few years, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has become one of the safest and most efficient solutions for people experiencing fertility problems. Many couples use this method because of its effectiveness and availability. Utilizing IVF is ethical, as it allows couples and individuals to make the reproductive choice to create their own biological child, ensuring them the opportunity to take control of their lives and future family.
IVF's medical purpose is positive, as it brings life into the world and is, therefore, beneficial. Likewise, this reproductive method has proven to be highly efficient in preventing the transmission of genetic disorders. In fact, many hospitals and clinics worldwide use IVF to preserve the patient's fertility if they are diagnosed with cancer and need to undergo the proper treatments.
In addition to allowing the patient or couple to create a new life, IVF has revolutionized the process of family creation and provides access to family planning services and reproductive healthcare, no matter of one’s religion, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status or background.
Finally, IVF fully respects embryonic life, meaning every clinic or hospital providing this reproductive method has strict ethical standards and guidelines for disposing of or handling unused embryos. In fact, most of these health centers allow these embryos to be used to help other patients.
IVF is a method that makes life easier for many people experiencing infertility or desiring a child. Its ethical essence relies on how it can create life in what used to be an impossible scenario for many.
IVF is a precarious form of reproductive technology that raises ethical questions, as it comes with health and moral risks leading to many complications. Regarding the sanctity of life, the IVF process involves creating as many embryos as possible to increase changes in viability, destroying or freezing like leftovers the rest. Creating these embryos requires women who donate their eggs or the mother-to-be to take reproductive drugs that are not without risk. Studies find these hormone fertility treatments are linked to various cancers, causing chronic illness or death in women later in life.
There's sufficient ethical and legal complexity around the ownership of embryos after a couple splits or abandons these 'souls on ice' in clinics. For splits, the issue becomes who has the right to move forward with the implantation or destruction of the embryos. Some believe, as did the plaintiff in Evans v. the UK, that the man's role ends once the egg is fertilized. IVF also contributes to exasperated socioeconomic inequality. Low-income women experiencing infertility whose insurance or personal finances don't cover the expenses of these procedures won't have access to this costly reproductive technology.
Finally, donor gametes used for IVF, which leads to the process of surrogacy—another highly-contested ethical issue—only compound the problems of using this reproductive technology. Children conceived by gamete donation were disturbed by the cost involved in their conception and experienced confusion about identity. These 'test-tube babies' grow up to use DNA testing only to discover they have multiple half-siblings out there. For those conceived without the intent of them knowing their biological parents, it's immoral to purposefully ensure a child doesn't have access to them. Ultimately, potential parents must consider more than the emotional aspects of their desire to pursue IVF.