Aspects For Consideration
Ethical issues in reproductive medicine should take four key aspects into consideration:-
- Autonomy of the mother
- Interests of the fetus/future child
- State interests
- Duties of a doctor to preserve life
Autonomy of the Mother
The rights and choice of the mother is often the one which is followed given her responsibility for carrying the fetus to term with her own body.
Two major conflicts of interests can occur between mother and child:-
- Mother who wishes to abort despite child being healthy and completely viable or does not suffer from any long term disability.
- Severe problems with the fetus or pregnancy which poses a significant risk to the mother but the mother does not wish to abort.
Interests of the Fetus or the Future Child
The killing of a child or adult is unquestionably wrong, but for a developing fetus in the womb, determining the point at which it attains the human rights that adults and children share stirs much debate.
- Timing - when the embryo becomes "human"
- When sperm meets egg (conception).
- When an embryo is certain to be one person and not twins (at 14 days).
- First fetal heart beat.
- Ability to think for itself & some degree of consciousness. Widely thought that pain is most basic perception, which occurs at 24 weeks.
- Viability -
- The ability of the fetus to survive indepentely outside the mother.
- Currently a percentage do survive at 23 weeks, but the newborn subsequently suffers from severe lifelong disabilities.
- Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008
- The Parental Orders (Human Fertilisation and Embryology) Regulations 2010
- Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 (c.49)
- Bromham DR, Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics 12 (8) 1995 "Surrogacy: Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects"
- Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: Male and Female sterilisation Guidelines 2004
- Recommendations on Ethical Issues in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (FIGO 2000)