21 May, 12 | by Iain Brassington
It was reported a couple of weeks ago that researchers had found a link between certain forms of assisted conception and an increased risk of birth defects. The paper, published in the NEJM, suggested that ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) correlated with defets in just about 10% of births. The base rate is about 5.8%, rising to around a 7.2% defect rate from IVF.
Does this tell us anything of any great moral import?
Several things spring to mind. One is that, granted the claim that it’s better not to be born with a defect, it’s presumably also better for assisted reproduction not to elevate the risk of defects above the natural level. There might even be an obligation to do more research into assisted reproduction, so that we can ensure the fewest possible birth defects (and maybe get better at generating healthy babies than nature: even a rate of 5.8% looks a bit slapdash). Slightly more radically, some might claim that there ought to be a moratorium on certain assisted reproduction procedures – ISCI in particular – for the sake of minimising the number of birth defects.
Let’s deal with the radical claim first (what can be said about that will also speak to the less radical one). more…