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Does the Right to Bear Children Guarantee Access to Treatment for Infertility?

by Torry Grantham Cobb, MPH, MHS, PA-C,  JAAPA,  June 21, 2010
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In the United States, procreation and access to fertility 
services are considered rights from both a legal and cultural perspective. The right to procreate has been established within the framework of the US Constitution, and infertility is viewed as a medical condition that providers are obligated to treat. Based on current ethical guidelines, providers who offer fertility services have a moral and professional obligation to ensure parental fitness to care for any children conceived through medical treatments. Recommendations call for screening of all patients desiring infertility treatment and for those whose fitness is deemed questionable to undergo more rigorous investigation. 

Despite such attempts to account for the welfare of the child produced via infertility treatments and other ethical considerations, no mandate or legislation to that effect has emerged, and individual clinics may choose their own criteria. This process may include or exclude persons in an unjust manner. In fact, the lack of regulation may result in the production of offspring who ethically should not have been born. The opposite is true as well. Based on discriminatory criteria, some individuals may be denied access to fertility services and thus never bear the children who ethically and legally had the right to be born. In light of this, setting minimal regulatory or legal standards should be considered. Beyond that, the practice of reviewing the medical, psychological, emotional, and social situations of those seeking fertility assistance is not only ethical, it is the medical professional's duty. Doing so assures the best possible care to the patient, the unborn child, and society.

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