IVF – for and against

Utilitarian ethics and IVF treatments – is it worth it?

here is a YouTube clip from My Sister’s Keeper

Pleasure/ welfare


Since 1978 (Louise Brown), in vitro fertilisation is a choice for infertile couples. 14% of UK couples are infertile (defined as “no conception after one year of trying”.
The choice is available on the NHS. But trusts vary on how old you can be and how many cycles you can have. 75% of the 40,000 couples a year go privately as the chance of success falls with age, and NHS treatments rationed.
For a woman under 35 the success rate for one cycle is 20% and for those over 40 it is 6%. Each cycle costs £6,000 on average. A cycle is one attempt at implantation.
The overall success rate is 25% over multiple cycles. Over multiple cycles the success rate for all women is 25%. So 75% live with permanent disappointment/heartache.
Christians often prefer the natural method – where eggs are taken at the natural cycle and fertilised in vitro. This avoids embryo wastage. Fertility is artificially induced with drugs. One cycle needs two months of drugs. “Some people are locked in a cycle of hell” Rebecca Frayn* (from experience).
An alternative is single egg, single sperm injection. Then there’s no wastage. Embryos are screened for defects and then two are chosen to avoid multiple births. Others may be frozen.
The gift of a child is a priceless gift. Could any child be more wanted and loved than a miracle child? If the child is conceived by sperm donor, then who is the father? Since 2006 donor parents will be traceable**.
Now you can only design saviour siblings under special licence***. You cannot clone yourself or select for gender. In a future Brave New World we could design superbabies for the rich, leading to a genetic caste system (see Gattaca).
Most of the cost is paid by individuals going to private clinics – that’s £180m a year. Lord Winston accused clinics of inflating success rates/overcharging. IVF treatments cost the NHS (funded by taxpayers) £60 million a year. That’s a lot of hip replacements/preventative screening. £45m gets no results.
In practice few people are denied treatment on ethical grounds – but no uniform right to NHS treatment – it varies from Trust to Trust. NHS ethics committees can deny treatment for women deemed “unsuitable” – where welfare of the child is questionable.

***Hashmi case 2003  here *Independent on Sunday May 22nd 2011  here

** Telegraph Dec 21st 2009  here







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