Nathan's Policy

Nathan Schwartz
Bioethics
Second Draft Policy Paper

Background: The problem of infertility affects around six million people in the United States. (Garcia) For these people, in vitro fertilization is one of the technologies available to help with having children. The first human being to be born of in vitro fertilization was Louise Brown on July 25, 1978. Since then in vitro has been an alternative option for infertile couples who want to have children of their own. In vitro has a good success rate. Sometimes the procedures wind up being too effective, with women giving birth to three or more children at once. (Lawrence) Just earlier this year Allison Penn gave birth to identical triplets, from one embryo that was conceived using in vitro. (Associated Press) It also has other potential uses such as; a research tool for investigating biochemistry of fertilization, and a potentially useful means for improving animal breeding. (Brackett) The focus of this policy, however, is the human reproduction aspect. In this process there is a chance that extra embryos will be created. With the interest going on over the research of cloning and stem cell research, who is to say that these extra embryos couldn’t be used to help in this research, with the parent’s permission? This policy will make it mandatory for in vitro clinics to ask for the parents consent on how they want their extra embryos handled, whether they give consent for them to be used for research, or perhaps put up for adoption if they so choose. Many in vitro clinics simply put excess embryos into storage or have them destroyed. (Hall) My policy would present the option to make good use of surplus embryos. They could be used to derive stem cells from the embryos in order to help with stem cell research. Studies using in vitro fertilization systems in other organisms have helped give us a better understanding of the first steps of fertilization. (Faure, Digonnet, Dumas) Research with human embryos may further our understanding even more.

Policy: Embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics cannot be used for research without the written consent of the parents of said embryos. Once the parents’ in vitro procedure is completed, if there are any embryos remaining the parents will be asked for consent on either giving them to research or adoption. Embryos that have been given approval in writing by the parents can be used for research. Parents can also sign a consent form to put any extra embryos up for adoption.
This policy will be enforced by the federal government. Punishment for not consulting with the parents will include a $50,000 fine for the clinic as well as the possibility of a minimum of three years in a federal prison for any individuals held accountable.
Digital versions of the consent forms will be kept in a computer database accessible only to clinics to which the forms pertain and the Department of Health and Human Services. Paper forms will also be kept at the respective clinics. These files can include the consent form(s) signed by the parents of the embryo(s) for its (their) use in research or adoption. Files will be inspected on a monthly basis by the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Security measures will be in place to prevent hacking of the computer files.
Research will be funded by the federal government to be carried out by a central experimentation facility. Embryos that have been released with written consent from the parents will be transported to the facility for experimentation along with copies of the consent forms as proof of the parents consent. Any embryos without a consent form will be traced back to the in vitro clinic from which they originated and the clinic will be dealt with according to the policy. The government will provide this facility with $5 million dollars a year for research funds provided by federal tax money.

Conclusion: With this policy in effect, research on human embryos without the consent of the parents will be prevented. With the results of this research, human fertilization may be further understood, as well as a better angle on therapeutic cloning possibly. Since the birth of Louise Brown, the success rate for in vitro has doubled. According to Dr. Allison Murdoch, chairwoman of the British Fertility Society, “the average probability of an infertile couple taking home a baby after a cycle of IVF today is 1 in 5. That’s about the same chance that healthy couples have of conceiving naturally.” (cbsnews.com) It is suggested in the article From cell death to embryo arrest: Mathematical models of human preimplantation embryo development that “research on improving in vitro fertilization success rates should move…to focus more on the generation of a healthy zygote and on understanding the mechanisms that cause chromosomal and other abnormalities during early cleavage stages.” The research done on in vitro embryos could help achieve this goal.

Works Cited

Associated Press (2003, July) In Vitro Success Rate Doubles; Test Tube Babies On Par With Natural Conceptions, www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/07/24/tech/main565014.shtml

Associated Press (2008, March) Woman gives birth to identical in-vitro triplets, www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/03/05/identical.triplets.ap/index

Brackett, Benjamin G. (1978, June) In Vitro Fertilization: A Potential Means for Toxicity Testing
Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 24, p. 65

CNN (2003, July) Test tube babies, 25 years later, www.cnn.com/2003/HEALTH/parenting/07/25/ivf.anniversary

Faure, J.-E., Digonnet, C., Dumas, C. (1994, March) An In Vitro System for Adhesion and Fusion of Maize Gametes, Science, vol. 263, no.5153, p. 1598

Garcia, Jairo E., M.D. (2005, August) In Vitro Fertilization Introduction, www.emedicinehealth.com/in_vitro_fertilization/article_em.htm

Hall, Carl T. (2001, August) The forgotten embryo: Fertility clinics must store of destroy the surplus that is part of the process, San Francisco Chronicle, pg. A-1

K. Hardy, S. Spanos, D. Becker, P. Iannelli, R. M. L. Winston, J. Stark. (2001, February) From cell death to embryo arrest: Mathematical models of human preimplantation embryo development
Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 98, no. 4, p. 1655

Lawrence, Tim (2006, October) The Pros and Cons of In-Vitro Fertilization, www.articlecity.com/articles/parenting/article_1348.shtml

(2001, August) Fact Sheet: Embryonic Stem Cell Research, www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/08/20010809-1.html

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