Ethics, Morality and In Vitro Fertilization

Judie Brown
June 24, 2010
Reproduced with Permission

Shortly after my insights on the clinical problems with in vitro fertilization were published, we joined forces with the United Kingdom's fearless pro-life leader, John Smeaton, to send out a media blast calling for an end to the business of reproductive technology, including in vitro fertilization.

Subsequently, we have received a few questions about why American Life League so vehemently opposes IVF. Many Americans do not understand Catholic teaching on this question nor do they understand how a couple facing infertility can actually find answers without going down the very costly path of assisted reproductive technology.

In order to clearly understand why assisted reproductive technology is problematic, it is essential to know that the Catholic Church teaches that the child has the right to be "the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception [biological beginning]." Children are not chattel nor are they property.

The desire to give birth to a child is laudable, but when technology gets in the way of God's plan, it can have devastating consequences on everyone involved. For example, one researcher has documented that the hormones doctors use to stimulate the ovaries can have negative effects on the women to whom they are administered. There may well be additional clinical reports that address the downside of in vitro fertilization as it affects the woman - and subsequently her husband.

However, the fundamental question is, what can a couple facing infertility actually do? There are several options available for those who understand the moral and ethical dangers of using in vitro fertilization but still desperately desire to have a child.

The best option is NaProTechnology. The doctor who mastered this treatment, Thomas Hilgers, M.D., points out, "Most medical approaches today bypass the woman's problem or simply override her natural processes altogether. With NaPro, we find out why the body isn't functioning correctly, then apply treatments that work cooperatively with the body."

The truth is that practitioners of in vitro fertilization do not work to cure the underlying causes of infertility because they are not motivated to do so. This is because the price of in vitro fertilization treatment can be upwards of $15,000, with no guarantee of success. The Centers for Disease Control have documented that the overall success rate for assisted reproductive technology procedures is 36 percent (see "Abstract"). That means a huge number of hopeful couples are having their hopes dashed to the ground repeatedly. It can be devastating to the emotional well-being of a couple, not to mention their bank account.

Dr. Hilgers' studies - and those of others who truly want to help couples overcome their infertility - indicate that "infertility is a symptom of underlying disease. The diseases that cause infertility have a etwo-pronged' effect. They not only hinder the functioning of fertility, but they also cause both short- and long-term health problems. The persistent unwillingness to address infertility problems from this point of view or perspective is one of the major flaws in the current approach to the treatment of infertility."

Clearly, there is hope for the couple facing infertility, and among the decisions that the couple has to make, one cannot overlook the choice to adopt a child rather than seek a medical solution to the problem of infertility. But one thing is clear. As long as in vitro fertilization and its progeny bring in the big bucks, there won't be a huge outpouring of support from the medical community for those who, like Dr. Hilgers, believe in solving problems naturally instead of using technologies that are fraught with danger and disappointment.

If you know someone who is experiencing infertility problems, the very best thing you can do for them is recommend that they contact the Pope Paul VI Institute.