6 things to consider about the ethics of reproductive technologyWritten by Wendy Kittlitz
What's inside this article
Artificial insemination? In vitro fertilization? Fertility drugs? Surgery? Masturbation? Fertilized embryos? Snowflake adoptions? Donor insemination? Financial costs vs. chances of success? What about adoption?
The world of reproductive technology is at once both a doorway to hope and a doorway to moral questions. For couples who desperately want to bear children of their own, this is where they may find the treatments they need to make their dreams come true. On the other hand, reproductive technologies pose a number of ethical issues that Christians need to weigh seriously against Biblical values.
My husband and I wrestled with this personally; we studied the issues carefully and then drew our own "line in the sand," so to speak, dividing what we felt was Biblically within our boundaries and what was not. We realized that some issues were ethical in nature, some were a matter of values, and some were just preferences. It is not my place or purpose to define those boundaries for all other couples. However, I would like to highlight the issues we considered before coming to our own conclusions.
Do your research
First, I urge couples to research and understand the medical issues. Find out exactly what each type of treatment involves and whether ethical issues arise. Are there any health risks that need to be weighed? Will you be required to do anything that violates clear Biblical principles, such as the value of human life?
Consider your relationship
Second, consider the relational dynamics. Will you be putting your relationship at risk if things don’t work out as you plan? Drugs can have significant impact on a woman’s moods. And month after disappointing month of failed attempts strains most marriages. Will you set limits on how long or how often you will try various treatments? Is this a risk worth taking? Are you both on the same page?
Weigh risks vs. cost
Third, what are the chances of success? Couples will want to carefully weigh the likelihood of achieving what they hope for against the risks and costs – emotional, physical, spiritual and financial. These issues will vary greatly depending on the nature of the problem and the treatments involved.
Fourth, what about the issue of stewardship? How much money are you prepared to spend on treatments that are not covered by your medical plan? Are you willing to go into debt to pursue this dream, if that is what it would take? What are the ethics of potentially spending thousands of dollars on attempts that are unsuccessful? Is that how God would call you to spend your finances?
Fifth, have you seriously considered the alternatives? Have you taken a serious look at either the option of childlessness or adoption? What would be the implications of either of these options for you? Should you consider them before pursuing fertility treatments, or even instead of fertility treatments?
Seek God's will
Sixth, be sure that you seek God’s mind on this. Pray individually, together, with trusted friends or loved ones to be in line with His will for you as a couple. I can tell you with great conviction that God places children in families and He does it in several different ways. The Bible and history are full of examples of people who thought they knew better than God how to accomplish His purposes for them (e.g. Abraham, Sarah and Hagar).
If, as you consider these alternatives, you would like to know Focus on the Family’s position on various aspects of these issues, we would be glad to share that with you. We would also be delighted to pray for you. If we can be of help, please write to us at [email protected]
Wendy Kittlitz is vice-president of counselling and care ministries at Focus on the Family Canada.
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