Three Ethical Problems with IVF
On July 25, 1978, Lesley and John Brown of Oldham, England brought their first child into the world, a little girl named Louise Joy. Why is the world remembering Louise on her birthday? Because she was the world's first "test-tube" baby.
Actually, she was conceived in a Petri dish through a process that came to be known as "in-vitro fertilization" (IVF). Her mother had blocked fallopian tubes, so doctors united her egg with her husband's sperm to produce an embryo, which they then implanted in her womb. The process was experimental 37 years ago; more than five million couples have since conceived children in this way.
Since infertility affects 7.3 million people in the U.S., or one in eight couples, assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a tremendous medical advance. It raises enormous ethical questions, however. Here are three common questions and my responses:
1: Are doctors playing God? Since God is the author of life (Genesis 1:26-27), some believe that any medical procedures which interfere with natural conception are unethical. In my view, this objection could call all medical procedures into question. If we use technology to treat people after they are conceived, can we not use technology to help them be conceived? Is not IVF another example of medical knowledge God enables and uses for his glory and our good?
2: Does IVF favor the wealthy? One cycle of IVF, including medications and all procedures, costs between $12,000 and $20,000. Using a donor egg or surrogate mother can raise costs another $20,000 to $60,000. While many states require insurers to offer coverage for infertility diagnosis and treatment, these costs can still make IVF unavailable to some couples. This situation is regrettable, of course, but similar to many other medical procedures.
3: Is this eugenics? Now we come to the hardest question. PGD enables couples to know if their IVF embryo is a boy or girl, and if it has Down syndrome or a variety of other heritable diseases. As genetic testing advances, will doctors be able to determine the intelligence and athletic aptitudes of an embryo? Will IVF become common even for couples who can conceive naturally? Will this be a form of eugenics? My position is that IVF should be used only by couples who cannot conceive naturally, and that they should implant every embryo doctors produce.
What are your thoughts on this difficult subject? Please share them in our comments section. And know that, however you were conceived, you are the miraculous creation of God. He knows your name (Exodus 3:4) and counts the hairs on your head (Luke 12:7). He thinks about you more often than the number of grains of sand (Psalm 139:17-18). He made you and loves you today.
Hold a $20 bill in your hand. You can fold it in half, but it's still worth $20. You can crumple it up, or put it through the washing machine, or stomp on it, but it's still worth $20. Why? Because its creator, the U.S. government, says it is.
Your Creator says your eternal life is worth the crucified death of his Son. Do you agree?
Publication date: July 25, 2014
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