What are the ethical & unethical views on in vitro fertilization?

Updated March 23, 2017

The topic of in vitro fertilisation, a treatment for infertility in couples that involves combining a man's sperm and woman's egg in a laboratory dish, is a controversial one that inspires a vigorous debate on the ethics of the practice. Fewer than 5 per cent of infertile couples use in vitro fertilisation, usually in cases of blocked or damaged Fallopian tubes in the woman or low sperm count in the man. If you are considering in vitro fertilisation, you should consider the range of ethical issues that encompass it.

Risks to the Child

In vitro fertilisation creates risks for the child, so there are ethical concerns about whether that is fair to the newborn. Children born using IVF have greater risk for ailments such as spina bifida. However, a counter to that argument is that most children born with in vitro fertilisation turn out fine, they are just more at risk of certain illnesses and conditions than children conceived and born naturally.

Multiple Pregnancy Risk to the Mother

An in vitro fertilisation risks creating a multiple pregnancy, which can threaten the woman's mental and physical health, bringing on high blood pressure or uterine bleeding, or necessitating a Caesarean birth. The couple will also have to bear the financial burden of the IVF and any medical care the children may require due to the procedure.

Social Effects

Some argue that because IVFs can create greater risks of ailments to the child, it leads to a greater financial burden on society, and a couple considering in vitro fertilisation should also consider the ethics of what it does to the community as a whole. However, this does not take into account society's duty to further develop IVF technologies and reduce the risk to the child so infertile couples may enjoy the same joys of parenthood that other couples do.

Embryos and Personhood

In vitro fertilisation generally involves the creation of multiple embryos which are not all implanted in a woman's uterus, bringing up ethical issues involving the sanctity of life for the additional embryos that are not implanted. For those who consider the embryo to be a human life, it is unethical to destroy the extra embryos for the same reason that these people believe abortion is wrong. The Catholic Church, for example, frowns on in vitro fertilisation because it views an embryo as a human life with rights.

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About the Author

Based in the Washington, D.C., area, Dan Taylor has been a professional journalist since 2004. He has been published in the "Baltimore Sun" and "The Washington Times." He started as a reporter for a newspaper in southwest Virginia and now writes for "Inside the Navy." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in government with a journalism track from Patrick Henry College.