Meanings of the Embryo in Japan: Narratives of IVF Experience and Embryo Ownership
Sociology of health & illness 2011 Mar; 33(3): 434-47
This article explores the sociocultural meanings of the embryo implied in the narratives of 58 women who have undergone in vitro fertilisation in Japan over a period from 2006 to 2008. We argue that a lack of sufficient analysis of the sociocultural meanings of the embryo result in a situation where the use of reproductive technologies in Japan advances without reflecting upon the voices of women and couples that use them. Additionally, we argue that the often-heard view that pre-implantation genetic diagnosis causes less pain to women and couples than selective abortion in which foetuses are discarded, should be reviewed in the light of the new empirical evidence offered in this article. Furthermore, this article shows that the view often expounded by Japanese scientists that in Japan the cultural meanings attached to the embryo are insignificant, is incorrect. Consequently, the argument that Japan has no need for an active national debate on the status of embryos should be questioned. Though agreeing with some feminist views on the embryo debate, this article is also critical of feminist views that discuss embryo donation in terms of the loss of ownership of the embryo and the alienation of the embryo due to commodification.
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