In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer:
Technological Achievements and Ethical Concerns
In 1978 Steptoe and Edwards in England succeeded with the clinical application of a newly introduced reproductive biotechnology called in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET), allowing an infertile woman to give normal birth to a baby girl, Louise Brown. Since then a series of new medical interventions have been applied to human reproduction. It has become possible for adult couples to bear children without having sexual intercourse.
Until IVF-ET was introduced as an advanced reproductive intervention technique, only artificial insemination was available for infertile couples who wished to have their own children. In artificial insemination, semen of either a male partner or a donor can be used to inseminate a woman, but an ovum has to be naturally ovulated by a female partner. When a woman has obvious troubles with her ovaries, uterine tubes or uterus, she cannot benefit from artificial insemination. When a man is suffering from aspermia or severe oligospermia, his semen is not usable and a donor's semen has to be used for artificial insemination of a female partner. In this case, the genetic father of the child is not the male partner.
Bioethical issues with regard to artificial insemination are important, but beyond the scope of this article.