Ethics refers to a system of moral principles and entails systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. In the whole world about 10% of all couples who want to have children are incapable of having them and they are referred to as ‘infertile’ couples (English, 2006). Using scientific techniques however, physicians have developed methods to overcome infertility with the intention to help these couples have their own children. The techniques involved in this process are in vitro fertilization (IVF), and donor insemination, artificial insemination, and account for 1-2% of the live births. It is noteworthy that the birth of baby to an infertile couple not only brings great joy and a new human being as well, in this case Ms.Seleman. Despite the fact that this form of reproduction is consistent with the ethical principle of autonomy and beneficence, assisted reproduction is viewed by society as unethical (Robertson, 1996).
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According to Harris and Holm (2000), people have a right to control their own role in procreation unless the state has a compelling reason to deny them that control (p.34). Government initiatives to make laws that will regulate assisted reproduction have faced a number of challenges. According to Duin (1999), one of the things that have paralyzed legislatures in acting in these areas that raise ethical concerns is that everyone has an opinion as to how children should come into the world. Despite Ms Salesman’s freedom to procreate, the ethical question that arises is why she has chosen to bring many children who will, based on her fiscal position, face a situation of economic deprivation.
Benatar (2006) indicates that it is widely acknowledged that a person’s freedom may be controlled to prevent harm to another person. Apparently, the monetary endowment of Ms. Suleman is wanting and may not be financially capable of taking care of the babies. The question of harm is relevant considering the level of risk that these babies she has brought into the world using this means are exposed to. There are four major ethical questions that need to be addressed with the use of artificial insemination. Firstly, the interference with nature. According to Robertson (1996), the substitution of artificial insemination for natural reproduction raises fears about technological power robbing us of our essential human characteristics (p.12).It would have been highly unlikely for Ms.Sulleman to get octuplets through the natural process. Secondly, this method diminishes respect for pre-natal life as it involves manipulation of the sperms.
Thirdly, the welfare of the offspring could be at stake. The children brought into the world through this method face medical challenges such as diseases and genetic parenthood, putting their welfare at stake. Fourthly and most significantly in the case of Ms. Suleman: the cost involved. Artificial insemination and the subsequent cost of the care the 14 babies will be overwhelming for the parent involved. This is unreasonable considering the fact that any method of reproduction is a choice. The doctor who implanted the eggs should have advised Ms.Suleman appropriately on the outcomes of articificial insemination, despite her procreative liberty. According to Buonocore and Bellieni (2006), procreative techniques require considerably more research before being made available to the public.
In conclusion, autonomy to reproduce is an important principle that should be protected from wanton violation however; the values considered at stake because of these technologies should be protected as well. It is clear that the use of these technologies is potentially harmful to family, children, women and society. The government should come up with prohibitions, regulations or limits to which assisted procreation and reproductive liberty can be exercised. Vetting of new reproductive technologies should also be done and their safety ascertained by the government before their use can be allowed. Looking forward therefore, procreation that stands a high chance of serious harm, whether medical or social, should be actively discouraged and sometimes prevented.