Ethical considerations of the new reproductive technologies

J. B. Andrews, C. R. Garcia, G. D. Hodgen, H. W. Jones, R. A. McCormick, R. Marrs, C. A. Paulsen, J. Robertson, E. E. Wallach, L. Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In September 1986, The American Fertility Society issued a report, Ethical Considerations of the New Reproductive Technologies, setting forth the then-held ethical position of the Society on the various new reproductive technologies. In 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the Instruction on the Respect for Human Life and Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation. While both documents state that very similar moral criteria were used to derive ethical positions with respect to various reproductive procedures, the conclusions as to the ethical acceptability of the various procedures differ sharply in the two documents. The question can be raised about the procedure used by the Congregation of the Faith to derive its conclusions from the stated premises. Thus, while stating that 'the individual integrallly and adequately considered' is to be the basis of the moral judgment, the fact is that most conclusions are based on and referenced to past Catholic statements. While the difference in conclusion from similar premises may be troubling to society, it can be especially paralyzing to four groups: (1) those who face problems that might be solved by one or another of the new reproductive technologies; (2) those who are involved in applying them; (3) those who are responsible for institutional policies where such techniques may be applied; and (4) those who are in a position to influence public policy in a legislative or regulatory way. Because of the conflicting conclusions of the two documents, the present Ethics Committee (1986-87) of The American Fertiltity Society was convened and considered these guidelines in the light of the Instruction. For reasons set forth previously, the Committee reaffirmed the finding of the 1985-86 Committee that basic in vitro fertilization with homologous gametes is ethically acceptable. The Committee reaffirmed the finding that the use of heterologous gametes is also ethically acceptable, provided that various precautions and guidelines are observed, as outlined in its previous report. The Committee recognized and re-evaluated the long-debated and very complex issue of the moral status of the gamete, zygote, pre-embryo, embryo, and fetus. The reasons for believing that progressive degrees of respect are due with progressive development were set forth here and in the previous document. The Committee reaffirmed the position that experimentation on the pre-embryo in conformity with the policies and guidelines, as previously expressed, can be ethically justifiable and, indeed, necessary, if the human condition is to be improved. The Committee was especially concerned lest the pluralistic nature of society be overlooked. It recognized that societal judgments about the reproductive technologies have changed and continue to change, necessitating a continuing dialogue to assure that these changes are reflected in current and future practices. For this reason, the Committee views with alarm the call for legislation based on doctrines not adequately supported by human experience or scientific data. The Committee welcomes and encourages continued re-evaluation of the changing societal and moral issues and views involved in the ever-evolving new reproductive technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFertility and sterility
Volume49
Issue number2 SUPPL. 1
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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