Ethical Considerations Surrounding IVF Treatments

Couples around the world seeking infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) are often concerned regarding medical ethics, guidelines and mandates in regard to procedures. For example, some of the most common questions that couples investigating IVF procedures ask include:

  • Are donors screened? What types of guidelines are followed to make sure donors are healthy?

  • Are donors as well as recipients anonymous? How do I, as a donor, guarantee confidentiality of my identity?

  • Does an egg donor or surrogate have the right to take away a baby if she changes her mind?

  • Do prospective parents have rights in regard to donors who don't take medications or follow medical guidelines during the in vitro process and a resulting pregnancy?

  • What happens if donors or surrogates don't pass genetic, psychological or medical evaluations?

  • What happens if my child develops a medical problem and I need to contact my egg donor in the future regarding family medical history?

These are just the tip of the iceberg. The legalities involved in a donation and surrogacy vary from state to state and from country to country. What's allowed in Argentina may not be allowed in the United States and vice versa.

Couples considering IVF or other fertility procedures should take the time to research everything about such treatments and legalities in their region, as well as region where IVF treatments are offered. Do this before signing on the dotted line. Ask questions of your doctor or fertility specialists.

Dealing With Legalities

In many states throughout the United States, the legal rights of a donor (in regard to the child produced) are not recognized. For example, in California, donors are not allowed to claim legal rights of parenthood unless the recipient mother and father don't claim their parenting rights.

However, in Great Britain, Australia and other countries around the world, laws are changing, and future egg donors may no longer be protected by anonymity. The rules, guidelines and legalities of becoming an egg donor or surrogate in the state of New York may differ from the rules, guidelines and legalities of doing so in India, South Africa, or South America.

It's important for prospective parents as well as potential egg donors or surrogates to be aware of legal, ethical and moral considerations and obligations regarding in vitro fertilization treatments and procedures.

For example, is age a consideration in regard to donors? Depending on culture, location and upbringing, the moral and ethical considerations of egg donations and surrogacy also differ. Today, cryopreservation and storage of eggs and ovarian tissues has brought such topics to the forefront of debates seeking to establish universal guidelines and considerations in this field. Sometimes, there are no black-and-white answers to such questions.

In most fertility clinics around the world, a woman's ethnicity, medical background, health and physical features are offered in a profile for prospective parents to look through. In many cases, and through third parties (which may include the fertility clinic), it's possible to determine the donor's educational background and family history. However, prospective parents should understand that screening processes are not perfect and there can be no guarantees.

Most prospective egg donors are given psychological, physical and medical evaluations to ensure a safe egg donation process. Women are also screened for hereditary conditions that may adversely affect a developing fetus. If such conditions are found, the donor or surrogate is (or should be) rejected.

The ramifications of an egg donor or surrogate who refuses to follow guidelines regarding medication, health care and a healthy pregnancy are enormous. Such situations are handled on a case-by-case basis, depending on facility policy and legalities.