The role of in vitro fertilisation treatment in tackling infertility

Scientific progress has enabled humans to have greater control over their own fertility and potential for reproduction. Some people believe that we should continue to strive for greater knowledge and power concerning our biology. Many people see fertility treatments as a way for them to have children when they otherwise would be childless.

Some religious believers are uncomfortable with humankind having too much power over nature. They often suspect that playing God may cause more problems than it will solve - raising issues that we would not have to worry about if we simply let nature take its course.

Arguments in favour of fertility treatments

1. Artificial insemination by husband (AIH) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF):

  • Childlessness can cause great distress to couples. AIH and IVF may enable them to have children who are genetically theirs.
  • Adopting a child, which is one option for a childless couple, is not the same as having a child who is the genetic offspring of the couple.

2. IVF and spare embryos:

  • IVF treatment can result in spare embryos. These can be frozen and used later by the couple to add to their family. Alternatively, spare embryos can be used for research and then destroyed. Research would help doctors understand the causes of childlessness and develop possible treatments.

3. Artificial insemination by donor (AID) and surrogacy (requiring donor):

  • It is an act of kindness for a person to donate an egg or sperm to a childless couple, or to be a surrogate.

Arguments against fertility treatments

1. Artificial insemination by husband (AIH) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF):

  • AIH and IVF are wrong because they are unnatural. Children should only be born as part of the intimate relationship between a man and a woman.
  • Childlessness is very distressing for some couples. However, there are other options, such as adoption.

2. IVF and spare embryos:

  • An embryo, however it is produced, is a potential human being and should not be destroyed. Some people might equate this with murder.
  • Some people regard life as starting at conception, therefore destroying or doing research on the embryo is unacceptable.

3. Artificial insemination by donor (AID) and surrogacy (requiring donor):

  • Donating an egg or sperm or acting as a surrogate introduces a third (and sometimes fourth) person into a relationship. Some people may think of this as adultery.
  • The child that is born may experience distress and confusion about its true identity. Not enough is yet known about these effects and how they may be resolved.