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Religious and Political Perspectives

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The general response of religious respondent to a question of in vitro fertilization would be that in vitro fertilization is a tragic occurrence unfolding in the modern world. Hence, religion understands the pain and desire of woman to have a child of her own. This asserts the view that religion does not overlook suffering and torment experienced by an infertile couple (Sweeny, 2008). Religion illustrates a child as a gift from god; therefore, child rearing is a calling which all parents must answer. However, religion disagrees with the expression commonly used “making a baby” indicating that this reference equates a child as product created through defined processes. Thus, the presupposition that anything that does not meet people’s expectations and standards is thrown way.

 Religion advocates for treatment in the event of a treatable medical condition; however, it abhors “manufacturing” of a baby through technical and technological manipulations which negate the fundamental conjugal act in procreation. Hence the assertion that a child does not present itself as a piece of property to be possessed, but it is a human being to be awarded equal dignity as the parents, thus, cannot be classified or referenced to as an object to be possessed or desired. Religion illustrates the decision to opt for in vitro fertilization as based on misunderstood assumptions and attitudes. These are characterized as ones sexuality and instrumental sense of the body. Sexuality is an integral part of a person which expresses an individual’s humanity; therefore, it cannot be removed from one’s spiritual and human life (Sweeny, 2008). The capacity for fatherhood and motherhood is fundamental to marital intercourse and not an object to be controlled and manufactured outside the confines of the marital union is critically asserted. Religion observes that human beings are incarnated spiritual entities, whose physical acts reflect on their humanity and whose intellect cannot be from their physical aspects.

The acceptance of contraception in society has culminated in the perception that contraception is controllable by man through his choice, which may be asserted through external technical and medical application. Hence, these aspects of scientific development has construed and equated human life to plant and animal life which can be reproduced through technological and medical techniques. Religious views assert that proponents of in vitro fertilization fail to recognize the truth that procreation is phenomenon made possible by God, who is the origin of all human life. Therefore, individuals or couples have no right to partake or involve other parties in an external creation of a human life and creation of parenthood. Therefore, religious conclusions that a child created through in vitro fertilization loses direct connection with God and the parents’ love.

Hence man is not a creator but God’s servant. Religious proponents contend that the in vitro fertilization process results in parenthood dilution. This is illustrated where an embryo is in a Petri dish or a freeze died embryo, parents lose the connection to develop parenthood instincts which can only be formed through conventional conjugal conception. These aspect leads to the parent’s inability to create a bond with the child or fail to be adequately responsible for the child’s well being. In vitro fertilization decisions are accused of ignoring the fact that a human embryo is a self-directing, organizing living organism, whose base basic structures determine human nature and individual uniqueness. In light of these, the in vitro fertilization process transforms this human subject to a manufactured object made out of raw materials provided by the couple. The child is subjected to arbitrary decisions and quality controls by medical technicians like those of consumer product. Religious perspectives assert that a mother child bond can only be formed through the mother conceiving and carrying the child to term, this way a mother is fundamentally connected to her child; hence demonstrates protective tendencies towards any threats to the child.

Religious doctrines present human family as undergoing processes of generation, conception and entry into the world through birth. Thus, reflecting trinity. However, in cases of in vitro fertilization a child is submitted to a secular determination of his identity, hence his personality. While couples negate fundamental religious processes of procreation, doctors and medical technicians are referenced to as servants of technique who are devoid of self consciousness. In light of these, the doctor loses self awareness which is reflected in his mechanized actions. The production of several embryos to act as security in the event that an implant fails has deemed them as leftovers which can be disposed like inconsequential garbage. Religious proponents reiterate the efficiency of doctors and require them to dissociate themselves from the embryos, thus, observing them as products developed through the in vitro fertilization technique.

However, inherent decisions like which embryos to keep and which to destroy are in his purview; therefore, doctors must censor their thoughts away from self examination on the impacts of their actions. It is essential to note that religious criticism, opposition and blame on aspects of in vitro fertilization extent to companies which aim to benefit from medical research and developments realized in the laboratory research and processes. These are termed as the real culprits responsible for funding universities, hospitals, medical research centers; hence making in vitro fertilization a profitable venture which represents an integral arm of the scientific research industry.  The decisions made by directors in the in vitro fertilization industry have irreversible consequences for embryonic children and destructive influence on the modern world; however, they are oblivious of the ramifications of their work. The tolerance of moral degradation for the sake of financial gain impacts negatively on the in vitro fertilization process. Exorbitant prices are charged to unsuspecting individuals and couples whose desire for a child leads them to opt for in vitro fertilization.

The monetary aspect of in vitro fertilization has been condemned by religious groups opposing the implementation and practice of in vitro fertilization. However, these processes have persisted despite the efforts of religious groups to have it eliminated. While enormous amounts of money have been spent on abortions and family planning, millions of couples suffer from infertility, hence spending significant amounts of money for in vitro fertilization fees in spite of the low rates of success. Religious groups, particularly Catholics, assert that there is a direct connection of abortive and contraceptive technologies with high number of infertility cases. The use of intra uterine devices (IUD), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), previous abortions and sterilization have significantly contributed to rising infertility and the increase in demand of in vitro fertilization services. In light of these, abortion has been characterized as an inherent aspect of in vitro fertilization.

The aspect of fetal reduction in cases of multi-pregnancies has been termed as irrefutable evidence of abortion. On the other hand, the relationship association of in vitro fertilization with research which results in destruction of embryos has caused numerous protests by religious groups. The indication that in vitro fertilization program directors consider themselves as researcher has compromised the integrity of the whole process. Political advocacy for abortion has also been associated with advocacy for in vitro fertilization research on embryos. Dissenting religious leaders who advocate for abortion and contraception are perceived as the ones supporting the applications of in vitro fertilization. These aspects have declassified the act of procreation into sacred and commercial procreation. Religion perceives in vitro fertilization as a business where a child can be ordered and tailored according to buyer specifications; therefore, a line should be drawn, where distinction between sacred duty to procreate and commercial manufacturing of babies is made. These aspects of in vitro fertilization have been illustrated as depicting and presenting human life as inconsequential, thus, it can be treated like any other commodity. Therefore, religious views are opposed to political views which endorse in vitro fertilization processes.

Discarding the Leftover Embryos or Freezing of Left over Embryos

Genetic materials from couples, who had previously donated their sperm and eggs in an attempt to conceive through in vitro fertilization, may abandon the embryos or leave them unclaimed. The in vitro fertilization procedure may not be successful in implantation of the embryo in a woman’s womb. Therefore, as a routine procedure clinics create additional embryos which are frozen for future use if the couple wants additional children or if the first attempt of implantation fails. The frozen embryos have caused critical debates and controversies. The question of whether frozen embryos should be cryopreserved or whether they should be destroyed after the expiry of stipulated time frames without being claimed by their owners. In most instances, the action taken by the clinic is the recommended action by the embryo’s owner; where several disposal options are available.

 The couple can have the embryo destroyed, donated for research purposes, give away the embryos anonymously or they can opt to keep it frozen. Usually pre-procedural agreements are seldom signed indicating the method of disposal and couples disappear without giving clear instructions or paying for storage. Clinics can only donate embryos to research facilities or childless couples with the expressed permission of the donor. Hence in the absence of a legitimate and valid reason, clinics have no reason to keep the embryos. The issues of left over embryos are dealt with in different ways by the various countries. For instance, Britain opts to destroy embryos within five years if the parent donors do not expressly state otherwise. However, after the expiry of this period, the donors may request their embryos be preserved for another period of five years, conditional to both partners consent. However, if the woman reaches fifty five years of age, she is deemed incapable of conceiving, hence the embryo is destroyed.

Thousands of embryos have been destroyed while controversy over the destruction of potential human life rages on. Clinics attempt to contact the donors in order to determine the aftermath of their embryos. However, some are unreachable or they no longer need the embryo leading to subsequent destruction of the embryos. While clinics destroy the unclaimed embryos, the public is focused on ethical issues relating to the destruction of them. Some countries like Australia have passed laws seeking the extension of embryo life on the basis of reasonable grounds; however, the same law provides that in the event of unsuccessful implantation the embryo should be given to another deserving woman with the donors’ consent. In these cases, embryos can be destroyed if the donor does not consent or after initial agreement makes a written withdrawal of the consent.

However, if the donor is unreachable, the state has authority to issue an order to the hospital to implant the embryo into another woman. The deaths of the donors pose a dilemma on the orphaned embryos, while this aspect presents a challenge in executing decisions; the government intervenes and makes appropriate directives on behalf of the deceased. In the U.S, the issue of abandoned embryos has no governance through an established national policy on the subject. Therefore, fertility clinics make decisions regarding the disposal and storage of embryos. The U.S government attempts to avoid conflicts on the basis of ethical and moral issues of in vitro fertilization. Hence clinics are unsure whether pre-procedural agreements signed determine the aftermath of their embryos. The agreement between the clinic and the donor stipulates the terms, circumstances and conditions of disposal inclusive of consent for freezing, storage, embryo disposal and the duration of storage. Inherent thereto the agreement, contingency instruction are for events of divorce, death or incapacitation. Despite covering these bases, unforeseeable problems do arise leading to litigation problems (Feiler, 1998).

The existing controversy over embryo disposal and storage culminates from the perception that all human life forms should be preserved; therefore, the disposal of embryos is immoral and unethical. The Catholic Church believes that life begins at conception, hence disposal or destruction of embryos constitutes murder. Those who hold the opinion that life begins at conception equate the embryo to an identifiable person; therefore, entitle it to fundamental rights granted to other people. In light of these, legal action is enforceable in protecting the individual human rights of the embryo equivalent to a grown person.  Research on embryos would be prohibited, and doctors would be required to exercise utmost care when handling embryos. However, the viewing of an embryo as a person would be impractical and unlikely. Despite the observations given by the embryo preservation proponents, there are those who believe that embryos cannot be kept indefinitely; at some point a disposal decision should be made.

The American Medical Association has guidelines which states that embryos can be allowed to thaw hence deteriorate basing these aspects on cultural and traditional morals. Proponents of embryo disposal argue that a 24 hour old embryo has not developed into a stage where it is capable of potential personification or associate with moral attributes. Despite a fertilized egg having all the necessary information essential in developing a person, the cells are undifferentiated until after 14 days have passed since conception. An embryo becomes a living entity after being implanted in a woman’s womb. Hence, without the assistance of a woman’s womb, the embryo would be like any other human cell. Thus, embryos are not human beings, consequently, their disposal does not constitute to murder. Statistically, in every 100 embryos, only an average of 65 will survive thawing, while ten are successful implants in a woman and only eight to five will develop to successful births. On the other hand, it is not easy to definitively determine how long the embryos can be stored without being degraded or succumbing to unknown abnormalities.

Significant risks of multiple births has been associated with in vitro fertilization; however, there is the belief that age is a contributing factor in multiple births, when relatively younger women were thought to be prone to multiple births than older women. However, this line of thought has not been supported by scientific findings and has been refuted on various grounds. It has been suggested that uterine factors may contribute to multi-birth risks, albeit seconding egg related factors. The number of embryo transferred and quality as quantified by cryo-preservation of choice embryo are critical in assessing multiple births risks. The use of donor eggs has continued to be a preference for most American women, specifically among the older bracket.

 However, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine have established guidelines applicable for women given their age brackets to prevent risks associated with multiple births (Elhage, 2008). Hence, women below the age of 35 years who have high potential of embryos are recommended not to have more than two implanted embryos, while women over the age of forty years a recommendation of five embryos is stipulated. On the other hand, when using donated eggs, it is critical to factor the age of the donor rather than the recipient’s age during an embryo transfer.

Ethical Dilemma

The constant changes in lifestyles, careers and family dynamics, are the visible trends with an increased number of women being actively engaged in their jobs, hence child bearing is delayed. An increasing number of couples wishing to have a child are finding that they are unable to do so. Therefore, an alternative conception method at the most opportune time for a couple is provided through in vitro fertilization. In vitro fertilization has continued to indicate significant success, improved accessibility and reduced medical costs. Hence more couples are opting to initiate pregnancy through in vitro fertilization. In some instances couples use third parties as surrogates, where a principle of borrowing a uterus is applied. However, society has demonstrated conflicting perspectives on the issues of in vitro fertilization (Baliant, 2002). A section of society holds the view that reproductive technologies like artificial insemination, sex preselection, surrogacy and in vitro fertilization should be disallowed.

These assertions are based on the fact that these methods separate the procreative act from the conjugal act. There are those who perceive the world as overpopulated; therefore, couples opting to use in vitro fertilization should instead consider adopting a child. Therefore, a question of optimal resource allocation towards a costly process of creating a single child through in vitro fertilization, where health care of existing babies suffers from reduced resources and the luck of care. The selection of in vitro fertilization patients is placed under scrutiny; where in vitro fertilization programs use reproductive technologies, approve the application of in vitro fertilization approve their services for use by married couples and in some instances heterosexual couples, indicating an established long lasting relationship. However, some women are rejected from these programs based on their age, having other children or the inability to cover the medical costs for the procedure (Ombelet, 2007). In vitro fertilization is a costly procedure which is readily available to those with the financial potential to cover the costs of the procedure and other related costs.

Significantly, ethical queries surround the method and process of retrieving eggs and subsequent handling. In light of these, doctors performing in vitro fertilization procedures should balance delicately the retrieval and fertilization of adequate eggs to affect pregnancy; however, implantation of a large number of pre-embryos may result in an occurrence of multiple pregnancies. Therefore, doctors must make a decision on the course of actions towards spare embryos. The doctors may opt to discard the extra embryos or donate them to a deserving person whose medical background deems her as such. On the other hand, the embryo can be frozen for future use or donated to a research facility. However, all these options are subject to stimulated ethical debates on the best course of action to be taken (Baliant, 2002).

The decision to destroy an extra embryo is pragmatic; discarded embryos are the ones which indicate improper development in culture dishes, hence do not indicate sufficient health characteristics to be implanted in the event they are transferred to the uterus. Critics of in vitro fertilization cite the social difficulties facing parents and their adopted children. The uncertainty of one’s genetic background and high probabilities of custody wrangle acts is deterrence to those opting to use donated embryos. Freezing of embryos offers an attractive solution to patients and clinicians, since it has an opportunity to save embryos for future transference to the mother, should the initial attempt fail. This prevents subjecting the couple to further emotional and physical strain of a subsequent laparoscopy procedure. Hence it minimizes costs and gives the clinicians a better chance at achieving successful implantation. Moral issues have prevailed in relation to the status of the embryo. Arguments have been put forward equating an embryo to full grown person; hence embryo should be awarded utmost respect as a human being. Others argue that an embryo should not be handled outside the confines of a human body as it constitutes abortion.  While moral concerns are raised regarding the ethical applications of in vitro fertilization, legal aspects also emerge where the status and ownership of an embryo is in question in the event of divorce or death of donors.

Conclusion

It is apparent that, despite the cultural and social dilemma posed by instances of infertility, in vitro fertilization offers a solution to the neediest individuals in the society. Given that a significant number of social-cultural settings look down upon a childless couple, in vitro fertilization offers a remedy to these individuals; hence, giving the comfort and acceptance in their social cultural setting. The depiction of in vitro fertilization by religious groups indicate in vitro fertilization as an exploitive and inhuman act, which degrades social and moral values, is biased in lieu to religious beliefs and principles. Hence, the views of religious groups fail to address the social cultural effects of infertility. However, in spite of the significant developments realized in researching in vitro fertilization, the costs associated with this procedure are critically high. Thus, low income individuals suffering from infertility are unable to access these life altering procedures. Therefore, health care policies, particularly in developing countries, should factor in vitro fertilization in their health care budgets.

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