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Ethical Aspects of Surrogate Embryo Transfer

LeRoy Walters, PhD
JAMA. 1983;250(16):2183-2184. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340160069037.
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The article by Hodgen published in this issue of The Journal (p 2167) suggests that some infertile women who cannot produce fertilizable ova may one day be able to bear children. Such women may have ovaries that are functionally deficient in a critical respect, or they may lack ovaries entirely. For these women, bearing a child that is genetically "their own" is a physical impossibility.

Any new technique that helps to reduce involuntary infertility is to be welcomed, provided that its benefits are not outweighed by safety considerations and social consequences. The present moment, when surrogate embryo transfer (SET) is being tested in primates and initially attempted in humans,1-3 seems the appropriate time to inventory the ethical issues that the clinical use of this new technique may raise.

Safety considerations in SET and accompanying techniques concern three biologic individuals—the oocyte or embryo donor, the embryo itself, and the embryo recipient.


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