Ethics. Research. Community.

Determining access to assisted reproductive technology: reactions of clinic directors to ethically complex case scenarios.

Human reproduction (Oxford, England). 
[Record Source: PubMed]
BACKGROUND: Our aim was to increase understanding of how patient selection is handled by assisted reproductive technology (ART) clinicians. METHODS: Ethically complex case scenarios were evaluated by the directors of USA ART clinics. Scenarios included using a son as sperm donor for his father, sex selection without associated disease, treatment of morally irresponsible couples, and a dispute over embryo disposition. Respondents reviewed eight scenarios and gave their opinions on whether to offer treatment. Reasons given for these decisions were placed into one of 13 categories. RESULTS: Survey response rate was 57%. Between 3 and 50% of respondents would treat in each case. Of reasons given, 'conditional' responses (requiring counselling, blood tests or agreement to other 'conditions') were common (31.4%). Non-maleficence (risk) accounted for 29.4% of responses, philosophy of medicine 18.9%, respect for patient autonomy 5.9% and legal concerns 4.6%. Discrimination and threats were each significant in one case. Reasons evoking absolutist beliefs, personal discomfort, commitment to justice, religion and ethical relativism were rare. CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians felt conflict between a desire to respect patient autonomy and their discomfort over the risk associated with the procedure. They raised concerns about misuse of medical technology. Attempts to resolve complex issues through negotiation and compromise were common.
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