Ethics - Human reproduction

From CambridgeNotes


  • Ethical standpoints:
    • Pro-life: Identity as a human; potential to be a person
    • Pro-choice: Identity as a person – when do they become a person? Increased justification needed for increased gestation
    • Moral status not intrinsic but given by others
    • Rights and interests of woman - “connected violinist”; Feminists right to privacy, autonomy, body integrity
  • Law:
    • Offences Against the Person Act 1861 – abortion illegal unless within the confines of other laws
    • Abortion Act 1967 amended 1990
  • <24 weeks on wide grounds (continuing pregnancy involves risk greater risk than termination)
  • >24 weeks if higher risk to mother or child e.g. disability
  • Except in emergencies, 2 doctors required
    • Doctor may refuse to carry out unless necessary to save life or prevent grave permanent injury
    • Abortion act does not give woman right to abortion
    • Fetus has no right to life or abortion
    • Father has no right to be consulted or prevent termination of pregnancy

At labour: C-section without consent if mother/fetus at risk?

  • Competent woman may choose not to have medical intervention even if means own and fetal death
  • In practice try hard to find incompetent and treat

Assisted Reproduction

  • Ethics: interests of (potential) child, parents, state
  • Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990; setup HFEA to manage assisted reproduction
  • Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 – no commercial surrogacy permitted