Getting Beyond the Welfare of the Child in Assisted Reproduction
Journal of Medical Ethics 2009 June; 35(6): 373-376
The welfare of the child is the prevailing principle and concern regarding access to assisted reproduction in Western countries today, and there is a wish to avoid harm to future children. New research fields have developed in order to provide scientific evidence on the welfare of children living with different "types" of parents. Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) seems to be heading in a responsible direction where the care and concern for future children is vital. However, the claim of this article is that the principle of the welfare of the child confuses the ethical framing of ART. Several philosophers in the past have argued that potential people must be regarded as outside the moral domain, and therefore cannot be harmed or benefitted. This message has not reached the policymakers, probably because the welfare of the child principle seems to fit so elegantly with common sense. In this article a different ethical framing of ART is proposed. The author argues that "futile care" and not "the welfare of the child" should be the guiding principle for eventually rejecting access to ART. The desired goal of ART treatment should be understood to be the production of functional families. Assisted reproduction is primarily about us, actual people in an actual society, and how potential children may affect us.
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