Fertility Clinics And Ethics – Where Do We Draw The Line?

Reproductive medicine and fertility clinics have changed millions of lives for the better by helping infertile couples start families, very often in curcumstances in which having children would otherwise be impossible.

The advanced technology used for in vitro fertilisation and other reproductive applications is often seen as somewhat miraculous because of the emotional impact it has – especially on those trying to conceive – and it truly is a life changing science. People utilise it for many different reasons, overcoming a variety of health-related issues in order to start a family in circumstances that would otherwise have made it inconceivable. With this in mind we ask – should fertility clinics ever deny anyone these treatments? Some would say yes, specifically in the case of a birth that occured in Romania in 2005 when a fertility clinic enabled a 66-year-old woman have a baby girl. This officially made her the oldest woman to ever give birth and the incident left many people asking an inevitable question: ‘should we allow someone so old to have a baby?’. Perhaps most curious was the choice of the clinic to take on such an obviously ‘high risk’ case in the first place, especially when fertility treatment is usually only advised for women under the age of 40.

It’s instances like this that have opened a global dialogue about the ethics of fertility clinics. Results of a survey performed in the United States indicated that decisions regarding who gets fertility treatment and who doesn’t is largely dictated by the opinion of each clinic, as opposed to world-wide regulations. According to answers given by 210 clinics in the survey, only 28 percent of them had a formal set of policies on who they’d accept and deny, which leaves the rest open to question. Overall, one in five of the clinics said they would refuse a single woman, while five percent of them said they wouldn’t even ask marital status. One in four clinics would provide fertility treatment to a woman with the AIDS virus, and most clinics said they’d help women up to 42-years of age conceive, but not after. Only one percent said they would help a Jehovah’s witness conceive, while three percent said that they would not be willing to help a blind couple.

Overall, 59 percent of the clinics said they believe everyone has the right to have a child, and two thirds said they felt it was their responsibility to consider how fit someone is to bear children. The answer ultimately lies in each individual case and so, it makes sense that no generic regulations can be set regarding who can and can’t receive fertility treatment. The team at each fertility centre is responsible for making its own decision – and it’s up to the patients to ensure the credibility of their clinic of choice – and to find out how welcome they are. What do you think though? Is it ever okay to turn away someone looking for fertility treatment? Let us know what you think.