Education And Debate

An Ethical Debate: In vitro fertilisation is rarely successful in older women

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 03 June 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1457
  1. Susan Bewley, director of obstetricsa
  1. a Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Guys and St Thomas's Hospitals, London SE1 7EM

    The two most extreme views of infertility are that (a) it is an unfortunate circumstance but not a medical disorder worthy of treatment and (b) it is a distressing physical malfunction leaving people unable to fulfil a fundamental human potential. Disease or not, infertility is associated with distress and is currently widely investigated and treated. The disagreement thus seems to be not whether doctors have an obligation to infertile women but the extent of that obligation.

    Debates on infertility, as on abortion, are clouded by different ethical value systems and deep prejudices about “deserving women” and “potential children.” Age is not an issue unless doctors have a prior obligation to help. If they do then very good reasons, apart from prejudice, have to exist to deny treatment to a particular …

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