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The ethics of assisted reproduction

02 February 2023
Volume 31 · Issue 2


George F Winter discusses the debate around assisted reproductive technologies and the right to reproduce

The world's first ‘test-tube’ baby, Louise Joy Brown, was born 45 years ago on 25 July 1978. Today, over 4 million children are living today because of the successful application of artificial reproduction technology, which accounts for approximately 2% of newborns (Petrushko et al, 2021). While it is unquestionable that technological advances have eased the reproductive journeys for many individuals and couples who have sought to conceive and have a child, such journeys have also generated ethical challenges and tensions in society. For example, while acknowledging the value of artificial reproduction technology in addressing the problem of infertility, Chatzinikolaou (2010) suggests that it has created persisting demands and unanswered dilemmas by transforming ‘the clear-cut problem of infertility…into many novel problems that no human mind, no committee nor a conference nor a law can ever solve’.

Running counter to such a narrative, the concept of reproductive freedom entails, in the eyes of many, a basic human right to avail oneself of artificial reproduction technology if fertility problems are encountered, and withholding artificial reproduction technology is often viewed as discriminatory.

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