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The creation of a full-fledged family is the desire of almost every married couple, and infertility becomes a serious problem on the way to its fulfillment. In the past, when the traditional methods of infertility treatment failed, the couple had a limited choice: adoption or life without children. Nowadays, the families have another alternative – the implementation of reproductive technology (RT). RT includes multiple methods for the treatment of infertility in which the conception and early development of embryos are maintained outside the maternal organism.
Surrogacy is regarded as one of the most effective kinds of RT, and it has many legal, social, and ethical implications. The basis for the technological processes involved in surrogacy is an agreement between a woman who bears a child and the biological parents. The agreement defines the terms according to which the surrogate mother bears pregnancy, and gives the birth to a child who later becomes adopted by the biological parents.
A candidate for the role of a surrogate mother goes through the strict selection procedures. A woman should be physically and mentally healthy, and, moreover, she should have her own children. Parenthood is a critical criterion of selection because it helps to minimize the emotional attachment to the fetus and reduce the risk of the psychological disturbance caused by the separation of the surrogate mother from the born child.
The technical program of surrogacy consists of several steps. The first phase is the synchronization of women’s menstruation cycles. The embryos derived from the couple should be transferred into the uterus of the surrogate mother, and the effectiveness of embryos’ implantation largely depends on the success of cycles’ synchronization (Bergeron, Child, & Fatum, 2014). The hormonal treatment is used for the achievement of maturity of the surrogate mother’s reproduction cells, and the specialized medicine helps to prepare organism for the implantation of the embryos (Bergeron et al., 2014).
The second phase is the development of embryos through in vitro insemination. The mature oocytes of the biological mother are taken through ovarian follicles puncture and then fertilized with the reproduction cells of the biological father (Bergeron et al., 2014). When the embryos are developed, they are transferred into the uterus of the surrogate mother. The success of the conducted procedures can be evaluated through the results of pregnancy test taken in several weeks.
Risks and Merits
Surrogacy allows the couples to find the solution for the most challenging situations related to infertility and, nowadays, it is considered one of the most common methods for overcoming the reproductive disorders (Biclet, 2014). But, at the same time, RT is not always perceived as a positive phenomenon and often becomes a matter of controversy.
The merits of surrogacy relate to the level of control over the course of pregnancy that is supervised from the beginning to the very end. Overall, the surrogate pregnancy is associated with the traditional method of conception. In vitro generated embryo develops in the uterus in a natural way, and the physicians only create the optimal conditions for its development.
There are a few risks associated with this RT as well. It is possible to presume that bearing a child who is genetically unrelated to a woman who fulfills the role of a surrogate mother can provoke strong reactions in her organism. In this way, the pregnancy may become a challenging experience. Furthermore, throughout the course of the pregnancy, the woman develops the attachment to the fetus, and the psycho-emotional connectedness of the surrogate mother to the child may become a source of emotional distress, psychological traumas, and conflicts with the biological parents. As a result, the surrogate mother may change her decision about giving the born infant to the intended parents.
The question of the child’s psychological adaptation remains topical as well. The problem may arise when a child finds out that he was born from another woman, and the news may become a source of disturbance or distress. Moreover, since surrogacy is new for the society, it is not widely accepted, and a child whose birth was supported by the RT may feel social pressure or rejection at the later developmental stages of his/her life (Jadva & Imrie, 2013).
Surrogacy is a modified version of in vitro conception, and it raises the similar ethical issues of the “redundant” embryos accumulated through the medical stimulation of ovaries – the embryos do not have any legal status in many countries and, in this way, they are left at the disposal of medical clinics (Deech & Smajdor, 2007). Although the national governments make significant attempts to control surrogacy and other RTs, there are still no serious legal barriers for the implantation of embryos into other individuals, and, thus, the control over the situation is limited.
The technology of surrogacy is, first of all, a commercial service based on the mechanisms of market regulation (Qadeer & John, 2009). In this regard, a set of medical procedures included in the RT and the developed fetus itself are regarded as goods. It means that the human life becomes the object of trade and acquires the status of property. Moreover, the practice of surrogacy contributes to the deterioration of maternity as a value and encourages the usage of woman body with the commercial purposes. It is possible to say that among all other types of RT, surrogacy concentrates multiple ethical issues, and the disputes about its social value thus are completely justified.
Family and Society
In the global society, the practice of surrogate maternity is not completely developed. As each new social phenomenon, it provokes more questions than answers. Surrogacy has positive implications for the families who were previously deprived of a chance to raise children. However, the issues related to the maintenance of physical and mental health of a surrogate mother and her rehabilitation after the birth of a child are still controversial. Moreover, there is a tendency for the dramatization of surrogacy and commercialization of this reproduction service.
It is possible to presume that the further evolution of surrogacy in the society will unfold within the ethical and legal domains that will stimulate the acceptance of the RT as a method of infertility treatment which can be equalized to the traditional methods of pregnancy. The social disputes about the commoditization of woman body and children, as well as the commercial aspect of surrogacy, create barriers to the widespread acceptance of RT.
However, it is possible to presume that along with the lapse of time in the social development the accent will be primarily made on the advantages of the surrogate maternity. It is important to refine the regulations of the commercial aspect of surrogacy. If regulated according to the principles of ethics, surrogacy would become a voluntary phenomenon which excludes monetary compensation for bearing a child.
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In this way, surrogate maternity would be based on the altruistic motivation, and the birth of a child for a couple would attain a greater value and significance than when it is motivated by the pursuit of financial profitability. It is important to remember that surrogacy has already proved to be an effective method of infertility treatment, and it thus has an undeniable value for the families with health problems.
Bergeron, M., Child, T., & Fatum, M. (2014). In vitro maturation and surrogacy in patients with vascular-type Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – A safe assisted reproductive technology approach. Human Fertility, 17(2), 141-144. Web.
Biclet, P. (2014). La gestation pour autrui. Médecine & Droit, 14(125), 56-58. Web.
Deech, R., & Smajdor, A. (2007). From IVF to immortality: Controversy in the era of reproductive technology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jadva, V., & Imrie, S. (2013). Children of surrogate mothers: Psychological well-being, family relationships and experiences of surrogacy. Human Reproduction, 29(1), 90-96. Web.
Qadeer, I., & John, M. E. (2009). The business and ethics of surrogacy. Economic and Political Weekly, 44(2), 10–12. Web.