In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is an assisted reproductive technology (ART) that works by combining the egg and sperm outside the body. The process works by initially prescribing the potential mother fertility medication to stimulate egg production. It is essential to have multiple eggs since some eggs may not fertilize or develop after being retrieved. The eggs are retrieved through a surgical procedure where a ultrasound is used to guide a needle through the pelvic cavity to remove the eggs. Medication is given during this step to reduce any potential discomfort. Then, the male is to produce a sample of sperm to be combined with egg. The combination step is called insemination, the sperm and eggs are mixed together and stored in a Petri dish for the process of fertilization to occur. Eggs are then monitored to ensure that fertilization and cell division occurred. Once fertilization has happened, the eggs are now embryos and are ready to be transferred to the woman’s uterus. This transfer usually occurs three to five days after fertilization. After the transfer, implantation usually happens about six to ten days after the egg retrieval. This has been promoted as a fairly seamless process, but that might not be the case with low-efficiency rates. Although it addresses infertility issues among men and women, I believe that this is not a seamless solution that it is made out to be.
I would like to advocate for preventing the use of in vitro fertilization since it compromises the religious framework of reproduction. It is important to acknowledge that since there is a diverse population in the United States that practice many religions. In order to demonstrate the importance of natural reproduction, I will be discussing views on IVF from the Muslim medical community, and the Catholic community. Additionally, I will highlight why this technology should not be funded beyond religious justifications by using recent research that shows the inefficiency and lack of success of IVF.
To provide a Catholic perspective, I used the doctrinal material, Donum Vitae, which answers questions on reproduction, marriage, and biomedical procedures. Although the importance of fulfilling the desire to have a child is acknowledged, homologous IVF is considered morally illicit for a number of reasons (163). It states that IVF and embryo transfer itself must be judged and “cannot borrow its definite moral quality from the totality of conjugal life” (164). IVF and embryo transfer does involve the destruction of human beings since eggs and embryos may be destroyed during the process. Additionally, the trust of the process is placed in the hands of doctors and biologists, which is problematic since these healthcare professionals now have rule over the destiny of a human person. It is difficult to entrust other humans with control in such a natural process and places them in a superior position within society. Additionally, homologous artificial insemination is seen as morally illicit since it can not serve as a substitute for the conjugal act during the IVF process. Therefore the church opposes IVF from a moral standpoint since it is “in opposition to the dignity of procreation and of the conjugal union” (165). It is important to realize how these doctrines and perspectives will impact the mentality of many Americans that are Catholic. Nearly 31% of Americans are raised, according to the Catholic Church (National Geographic, 2015), which is a large amount of the population, and not to say all of them are in accordance with the Donum Vitae, but a good amount of practicing Catholics are. It is important to remember the demographics of the US population and what their sentiments will be towards policy change such as implementing IVF and having the government regulating it.
Upon looking at Muslim medical ethics and the study of Islamic Embryology, there is a mixed consensus as a whole on IVF, but there are cases in which any form of IVF is forbidden (68). Also since a majority of classical fuqaha would have opposed abortion, it only makes sense that IVF is seen as forbidden in those cases. When looking at the different stages of the embryo through an Islamic perspective, after the 120th day or when ensoulment occurs, which is after the stages nutfa, alaqa, and mudgha stages have passed is when abortion of the embryo would not be permissible. Additionally, abortion prior to ensoulment is also not allowed in some cases (68) so this would put Muslim couples with eggs that need to be disposed of or destroyed in a difficult situation. Additionally, if the embryos are not disposed of, they can be used for research, but the Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences (IOMS) decided at a conference in 1990, that using frozen embryos for research is “among the worst of three possible ways to deal with frozen embryos” (69). This could lead to possible issues later on with people undergoing IVF that may not to submit their embryos to research.
Moreover, I believe it is important to examine the efficiency of IVF if it was to be funded by the government or other public institutions. For instance, there was a study published by PubMed that sampled over eight thousand women, ranging from 20 to 44 on their usage of IVF. Between 1993 and 2002, there was a 47% success rate, which means less than half of women that used IVF during this trial were unable to become pregnant. Additionally, it is important to note that each couple underwent an average of three cycles. I believe this success rate is too low to ensure funding. Perhaps if the success rate was over 50, that would allow for some certainty and trust. It is also essential to consider that natural human reproduction is also an inefficient process with every fourth or fifth egg-sperm interaction actually results in a live birth, so in vitro fertilization is considered to be even more inefficient. Additionally, the cost of IVF is important to consider since this is what the funding will go to. On average, IVF cycles cost about $12,000 prior to medications that cost an additional $3,000 to $5,000. For a procedure that is only successful less than half the time, the cost cannot be justified as efficient.
Upon inspecting the process of in vitro fertilization and look at the efficiency of this technology, I was able to conclude that funding for this procedure is not justifiable. Looking at the procedure from a moral perspective, it is also not sound since the destruction of other embryos is involved in almost every procedure. By using the works of Donum Vitae and Muslim medical ethics, I was able to use religious texts and doctrines as a grounds for demonstrating why individuals in the United States that align with those ideologies also might not support funding for in vitro fertilization through the government.
Stewart, Holman, Hart, Finn, Mai, and Preen. “How Effective Is in Vitro Fertilization, and How Can It Be Improved?” Fertility and Sterility 95.5 (2011): 1677-683. Web.
Jones, H.W. et al. “Reproductive Efficiency of Human Oocytes Fertilized in Vitro.” Facts, Views & Vision in ObGyn 2.3 (2010): 169–171. Print.
Brockopp, Jonathan E., and Thomas. Eich. Muslim Medical Ethics: from Theory to Practice. University of South Carolina Press, 2008.
Catholic Church. Congregatio Pro Doctrina Fidei. Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day. Washington, D.C.: Office of and Promotion Services, United States Catholic Conference, 1987. Print.
Sgarro, Victoria. “Who Are U.S. Catholics? Numbers Show a Surprising Shift” National Geographic, 17 Sep. 2015, https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/150917-data-points-how-catholic-population-has-shifted-in-the-united-states/. Accessed 30 June 2018.
“In vitro fertilization (IVF)” Medline Plus, 4 June. 2018 https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007279.htm
*Disclaimer*: This post does not reflect the views of the student.
Thank you for a great class & summer semester!