Ethical Objections to IVF

The field of conception and fertility treatments is one which is rife with controversy and debate from ethical, religious, and legal quarters. This is best reflected by the myriad of different national policies towards treatments like IVF across the world, with some countries going so far as to expressly forbid its practice within their borders.

IVF: The big debate

IVF has been criticised on ethical grounds. For example, there have been incidences in the past where embryos have been mixed up, the HFEA has a double witness system in place to keep the chances of this mix up to a minimum. This means that two specialists will be on site to ensure that these mistakes are not made.

Many criticisms stem from the argument that IVF goes against natural conception, for example, women can have a baby post menopause. Couples may also face objections from groups opposed to children being born to unmarried or same sex couples. Objections therein can be from secular quarters who argue that a new born child is in need of both a mother and father figure for his or her healthy development.

Churches such as the Catholic Church oppose all in vitro treatment (procedures outside of the body), again because they believe that infertility is God’s will and to go against it is wrong. Many other religions echo this belief, and there is in fact further objection because of the number of embryos involved in IVF. To give a couple the best chance for a pregnancy multiple embryos are produced, grown, and then implanted into the uterus, with many discarded if they aren’t of good enough quality to present a healthy chance of pregnancy. For some religious groups for instance, each embryo represents a life and so the disposal of embryos is considered in the same light as abortion.

Despite these ethical objects, primarily from religious groups, there is nothing in UK law to prevent you from using IVF treatment based on your sexual orientation or religion, although there may be limitations for women post menopause due to the very low chance of success.

The positives of IVF in the ethical debate

While there is certainly broad opposition to IVF from many different quarters, there is also strong support from others. Feminists advocate IVF for its ability to give single mothers the chance to get pregnant and have children, and same sex couple support groups also support IVF as it allows same sex couples the opportunity to have children and a family of their own.

Beyond these more controversial topics, there is a lot of support for IVF from couples who suffer from fertility problems and doctors who treat them as they recognise in IVF a chance to treat a medical condition like any other. The reasoning is that infertility is, at the end of the day, an illness that modern medicine has the power to treat, and as we don’t deny treatment to anyone suffering from infections or cancer, why should we do so to people suffering from infertility?

This article has provided an overview of some of the key debates around IVF, but has by no means encompassed the multitude of different opinions and thoughts around the topic. There are many different valid and understandable viewpoints, but if either you or your partner are infertile, these don’t matter as much as whether or not you want to go ahead with your treatment. If you have specific religious or ethical concerns then talking to your doctor or GP can help as they will be experienced in dealing with many different concerns around IVF and other matters.

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