Dangers of technological advancements
The developments in science and technology enriches and improves the quality of the human race. Endless updates and reinventions provides us with more sophisticated technologies and opens the doors for new possibilities which unfortunately does not always mean it is ethically correct. Sometimes technology meets resistance from societies either because of religious beliefs or personal views. Very often those ethical dilemmas concern the science and technology in medicine. The In vitro fertilization is one of the inventions of medical technology that clearly raises a lot of controversies and ethical issues all over the world.
IVF is being constantly judged from various angles by people and societies of different ethical values and moral codes. It is obvious that IVF is very rewarding for the parents which thanks to it are able to get pregnant and give birth to a child. But ethical questions arise when looking at it from a different perspective.
When does life start?
Very often to rise the chance of getting an IVF patient pregnant a surplus of embryos is used. Sometimes this indeed results in a pregnancy, often a multiple pregnancy and sometimes the rest of embryos are frozen, used for research or discarded. Theologians believe that we should consider life beginning at the moment of initiating the fertilization. In this case it would mean that if we are freezing, discarding or doing research on embryos, we are at the same doing all of this on a human being. It is however hard to say because if there was evidence that life begins after the implantation it would mean that IVF would not be unethical because the human life had not started yet.
The teaching of the Catholic Church state that “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person.”
This sounds reasonable but still those are religious beliefs. Science relies on evidence and our daily lives are controlled by laws, facts and evidence. There are many different belief systems in the world, people believe in many different things or they simply relay on evidence. Should we let religion interfere into the world of science and evidence?
Birth defects in IVF
Some studies in Australia showed that assisted reproductive technology conceived children have a bit more higher risk of having a major birth defect and also low birth weight usually because of often multiple pregnancies. Those studies also suggest that using assisted reproduction technologies rise the chance of multiple defects, musculoskeletal and chromosomal defects. According to the research the age of the mother, number of births in the past and the child’s gender do not affect the results.
Tell or not to tell?
The subject of informing the child about the origins of its creation and birth is very often a subject of controversies and is very often referred in the ethical dilemmas of IVF. Different countries have different laws concerning the anonymity of the sperm or eggs donor or both. Although specialist mostly agree that you should inform the child about its origins, very often parents for example from the United Kingdom go to Spain for treatment so that they donor is anonymous and they are not obliged to inform the child.
It might seem psychologically comfortable simply not telling your child it was conceived differently but you need to think how you yourself would like to be treated, would you not want to know how you really got into this world? In the end it is up to you but being honest about this matters is usually the best option.
One of the most often ethical dilemmas of IVF treatments is the higher chance for multiple births. Multiple pregnancies can carry significant consequences which raise ethical concerns. It not only endangers health of the mother but also often has serious consequences influencing the health of the babies born. So it seems pretty obvious why it raises ethical questions. Clinics and clinicians doing IVF treatments must be aware of those risks that are involved in multiple pregnancies concerning mothers: miscarriage, high arterial blood pressure, pre-eclampsia and Gestational diabetes. This is however only one side of the risks, the other risks concern the children and those are: 40 to 60% of twins need immediate intensive care just after birth, problems with breathing from mild to severe like respiratory distress syndrome, higher risk of death in the first year of life than single babies and 3 to 6 time higher risk of dying at birth, 9 times higher if they are triplets. Also there are some long term problems with premature birth caused by multiple birth like low weight which sometimes involves lower IQ, different serious health problems and problems with speech development. All those problems make it quite clear why for some it seems controversial to perform IVF knowing about those risks.
In the end the decision is up to you, if those ethical issues concern you to a degree that you have serious doubts maybe you need to think about it a bit more.
There are more ethical dilemmas if you are doing IVF with egg donation and you can read all about it by clicking here.