Inhuman methods of conception

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Artificial human reproduction
Artificial insemination
Test tube conception
In vitro fertilization
Donation of ovarian tissue
Artificial insemination in human involves introducing sperm (usually from a man not the husband of a woman) into the vagina or uterus, as if to mimic natural insemination ([in vivo] fertilization). The procedure is used when a woman with healthy eggs is unable to conceive with her man of choice (usually because he has deficient sperm). "Test tube" conception ([in vitro] fertilization or IVF) occurs when eggs and sperm are mixed in laboratory conditions outside a woman's body. After a few days' incubation, fertilized eggs are placed in the woman's uterus for pregnancy to continue as normal.

It is possible for the eggs to be of another woman (including an immature or unborn woman, although foetal eggs or eggs from sexually immature girls have not yet been used for this purpose). It is also possible, in the case of women with damaged ovaries (eg from cancer) or with premature menopause, that a donated piece of the egg-producing part of their ovaries could be stimulated to produce eggs by hormonal treatment [in vitro]. The donor eggs, when mature, could be fertilized and introduced into the woman's uterus. This raises the possibility of donation of ovarian tissue from dead women.

Scientists in Korea have produced a child from eggs taken from a dead woman.

In 1997 a British woman won an appeal under European law which gives her the right to be artificially inseminated using the sperm of her dead husband. He had not given his written consent.

1. Reproductive technologies are inhuman. Doctors and scientists are tampering with the very elements of human life. Using eggs from other people interferes with nature and reduces conception to laboratory process. Whilst the desire of sterile couples to have children is understandable, it must be stressed that not everything that is desired is right and not even scientific progress can make it so. What matters most is not that a child is obtained, but that it is obtained in a human manner. Debasing IVF to a commercial service, to the status of trading in a commodity, appears to many to trivialize very serious issues.

3. Questions of consent (next-of-kin of a cadaver or aborted foetus) and rights concerning the offspring are raised, for example the rights of genetic relatives.

4. The various techniques of artificial reproduction, which would seem to be at the service of life and which are frequently used with this intention, actually open the door to new threats against life. Apart from the fact that they are morally unacceptable, since they separate procreation from the fully human context of the conjugal act, these techniques have a high rate of failure: not just failure in relation to fertilization but with regard to the subsequent development of the embryo, which is exposed to the risk of death, generally within a very short space of time. Furthermore, the number of embryos produced is often greater than that needed for implantation in the woman's womb, and these so-called "spare embryos" are then destroyed or used for research which, under the pretext of scientific or medical progress, in fact reduces human life to the level of simple "biological material" to be freely disposed of. (Papal Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, 25 March 1995).

Counter Claim:
1. What could be more human than science ? What could be more beast-like than natural conception ?< 2. Egg donors are very remarkable and courageous people. They give eggs, their own unique genetic material, anonymously, because they sympathize with the plight of infertile women. It is a complex and demanding treatment from which one can derive no personal benefit.

3. Well, not quite. A New Jersey fertility clinic paid $5000 US for human eggs in 1998.

Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
29.08.1999 – 00:00 CEST