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In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

Question: I am struggling with a decision on IVF. My wife and I have been trying to have a baby for quite a while now, but nothing has happened. We have been prayed for on numerous occasions, but still nothing. My wife has started an IVF program, of which I am not happy due to moral issues. I side with the Catholic Church on this one, though I am not a catholic any more.

Answer: Before we discuss the ethical implications of IVF, may I point out something important? You and your wife should deal with this problem together as a married couple to arrive at a common decision. Otherwise, you may end up hurting one other and drifting apart.

I understand that the psychological stress on both of you must be very great; the desire for a woman to have a child may be overwhelming (I am reminded of Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth). Ultimately, this is a spiritual matter between both of you and God. You ought to pray; you should also be willing to accept His answer, whether it is a “yes” or a “no”. God may also lead you to an alternative solution: to remain childless, to foster or adopt a child.

Keep in mind that children are a gift from God; children are not a right or privilege to be fought for at all costs. “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3). Therefore you are justified to seek medical assistance only insofar as it is consistent with the Law of God and the teaching of the Scripture on the sanctity of human life from its beginning at conception.

IVF involves the women taking a fertility drug to help her produce more eggs and a hormone drug to prepare the womb for pregnancy. The eggs are then harvested and fertilised in the laboratory; the embryos are then placed inside the womb.

In the circumstances in which it is regularly practised, IVF involves the formation of more embryos than could be transferred into the womb. The extra embryos are either discarded or frozen. Also, in some centres IVF often results in twins or triplets. This is associated with a high risk of premature birth, neurological and developmental problems, and even death. For this reason, some clinics practice “selective reduction” - reducing the number of children the woman is carrying by aborting one or more of them.

Clearly, IVF cannot be morally justified when it involves the destruction of human life. Also, the freezing of embryos is contrary to the parental responsibility for their offspring and the respect due to human beings by exposing them to grave risks of death or physical harm and depriving them of maternal shelter and natural development. On the other hand, IVF is ethically acceptable if only one or two embryos are produced, and all of them are transferred to the uterus.

May God give you and your wife a strong conviction to be obedient to His Word, hoping He would grant you the desire of your hearts. Whatever His answer, be faithful to God and you will be richly rewarded.

© Dr Joseph Mizzi