Assisted reproduction in the form of IVF, donor conception and surrogacy is challenging global attitudes towards medical science and is presenting a unique global regulatory challenge.
IVF policy and practice differs across the world. For example, the UK has opted for a closely regulated legislative framework overseen by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). In contrast, in the USA greater emphasis is placed on the fertility sector’s ability to self-regulate.
Surrogacy creates legal and practical difficulties on an international scale due to conflicting laws and practice. There have been a series of internationally publicised surrogacy cases in recent years where intended parents and their surrogate born children have found themselves embroiled in serious legal difficulties, with babies stranded abroad and their intended parents risking criminal sanction.
Underpinning assisted reproductive technology, including IVF, donor conception and surrogacy are some very fundamental issues about the right to have a child and a family life, the interests of children conceived using assisted conception techniques, and the structure of modern day families. Sesitive and difficult issues may also arise surrounding altruism, commercialism and freedom of choice. Assisted reproduction techniques now enable children to be conceived and families to be created in a number of different ways that were simply not possible 40 years ago. Fertility treatment and practice now has a global reach which has out-paced legislation and regulation.
Until we begin to get to grips with these issues in their widest sense, it is difficult to see how any form of progressive international consensus or regulation will be reached in relation to assisted reproduction. In the meantime, IVF, donor conception and surrogacy remain key topics for debate, policy formulation and regulation amongst nations across the globe.