Beware of IVF incest, ethicists warn clinics

Oedipus led from Thebes by his daughter (and sister) Antigone

IVF clinics must prepare for “intrafamilial reproductive arrangements”, according to a new document published by the ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

While “collaborative reproduction” typically involves anonymous or unrelated individuals (such as family friends), legal experts say that it is increasingly common, in North America at least, for first-degree relatives to share egg, sperm or wombs. The new ASRM document addresses the ethical and legal issues arising from these familial arrangements.

The document states that there are some combinations that should be rejected outright because they are consanguineous (such as the pairing of a sister’s eggs with a brother’s sperm). Others should be rejected as they “simulate incestuous unions”, such as a father providing sperm to a daughter, who is using a donated egg to fall pregnant.

The committee is less opposed to arrangements such as a father giving sperm to his son’s wife. The ethical acceptability of this procedure will depend on the “attitude of [the] female partner”, the document states.

Some concerns about intrafamilial arrangements include whether consent is possible where a donor or surrogate is closely tied to and perhaps dependent on the recipient couple, and whether the novel arrangements will have negative implications for family dynamics.

The National Post recently reported a case involving a mother attempting to use her daughter’s eggs and her new partner’s sperm to fall pregnant.


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