An IVF ethics question

There was an article in today’s Chicago Tribune:,0,4327435.story?page=1
(Link may work for only a short time; the Trib’s online edition becomes subscriber-only after a period of time.)

The article was about a clinic that performs in vitro fertilization for much cheaper than typical, and with a money-back guarantee. The reason they can do this so cheaply is that instead of using the prospective parents’ own eggs and sperm (or carefully selected donors when necessary), the clinic creates a batch of embryos from one egg donor and one sperm donor and then implants the embryos into several patients.

This is done of course entirely above board. The clients accept that they will have no genetic connection to the baby (or babies if the procedure results in multiple births) and that the baby will have full biological siblings born to other parents. The prospective parents list what they want in a child (such as a certain race; I don’t know how much specification is allowed) and receive a profile of the donors. The clinic will perform up to three implantation procedures within a year, using embryos from a different batch each time. The clients get their money back if none of the procedures work.

The article had comments from a couple of people. A fertility lawyer called it the “commodification of children.” An ethicist said it essentially amounts to creating embryos for sale.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it, but I’m not a parent and often don’t react as parents do in such circumstances.

The article does mention that sometimes people who have had in vitro donate the embryos they didn’t use to people who want to have children and can’t in another way. There are a couple of practical problems with this: 1) The number of embryos donated is small, and 2) since in virtually all cases the parents elected in vitro because of fertility problems, the embryos may not be viable. There’s a better chance of embryo viability from healthy donors.

So, what do you think? Is the clinic doing something unethical in providing this service? If you think it’s wrong, is it unethical for parents to donate embryos for implantation? If the clinic is wrong, but the parents are not, why the difference? And if the parents are not wrong for donating their embryos, if fertility clinics offered a monetary amount (perhaps terming it an “honorarium”) would the parents be doing wrong if they take the money?

If it is all up front about it, what is the big deal?

Think about it like adoption where you have the sprog to order and carry it yourself instead of depending some woman to carry a child to term and turn it over for adoption.

How is that any different from a sperm bank? :confused:

Money-back guarantees of this sort are common in conventional IVF as well.

Most of the cost savings here is going to happen on the egg side, since egg retrieval, being essentially surgical, is the biggest expense in IVF.

With a sperm bank, half the genetic material still comes from the client woman, who must be reasonably fertile, and there is no guarantee of success, plus the small-ish hazard of an ectopic implantation.