In Vitro Fertilisation and Ethics

  • Paul T. Schotsmans
Part of the International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine book series (LIME, volume 8)


Louisa Brown, the first test tube baby, celebrated her twentieth birthday in the summer of 1998. Using the natural cycle, three births occurred in 1978 and 1979. The pace of development accelerated in 1980, e.g. the first Belgian test tube baby was born in 1981. Detailed follow-up studies revealed that IVF babies had virtually the same degree of anomalies as those conceived in vivo. As Edwards describes:

Practitioners in assisted human reproduction should be very proud of their achievements for their patients. They have placed human conception firmly within the province of medicine, acted within acceptable ethical guidelines, dealt firmly with their own colleagues who transgressed acceptable limits, and kept the patients and the public fully informed of their work (Edwards, 1998, p. 17).

This sounds as a winning bulletin, although many ethical issues remain open, and this counts certainly for a Roman-Catholic moral theologian, who has to take into account the radical rejection of IVF by the Magisterium. The Vatican Instruction on respect for human life in its origin and on the dignity of procreation (1987) stated, indeed, that the church remains opposed from the moral point of view to homologous In Vitro Fertilisation: such fertilisation was called in itself illicit and in opposition to the dignity of procreation and of the conjugal union, even when everything is done to avoid the death of the human embryo.


Human Embryo Human Person Human Reproduction Ethical Evaluation Ethical Reflection 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

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  • Paul T. Schotsmans

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