Issues of Human Fertility

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  • Created by: Clare
  • Created on: 04-11-09 20:00

Issues of Human Fertility

New Reproductive Technologies (NRT's)

Until the second half of the 20th century, little was really known about the bio-chemistry of the reproduction. The discovery of the nature and functioning of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in living cells by Watson and Crick in 1953 was a truly landmark discovery which allowed the development of understanding of biological reproduction, and consequently our power of control over it. Before, people were brought into existence in their mothers womb in a time-honoured natural fashion. Now, it can be brought to life in more artificial ways - the new reproductive technologies (NRT's) such as in vitro fertilisation and cloning.

The NRT's can give great benefits to some people, but, like any ability, they can be used unethically as well as ethically (it's open to abuse). A common view of NRT's is that of S.Firestone in 'The Dialectic of Sex' (1971). She writes, " a Atomic energy, fertility control (and) artificial reproduction...are liberating - unless they are improperly used." Opponents of NRT's claim that they are techniques which human beings ought not to meddle with - manipulating life itself is God's prerogative, not ours (Roman Catholic Churches view).

Are we meddling with Nature too much with NRT's? Why/Why not?

Some definitions:

Gestation - The period of time for an unborn life in the expectant mother from conception to birth (pregnancy).

Embryo - An unborn (or unhatched) offspring of an animal or bird. In humans, an unborn life is referred to as an embryo until it is eight weeks on from conception. After this, it is referred to as a foetus. (At eight weeks, all bodily organs, although miniature, are actually in place).

Foetus- The unborn life from the eight weeks to 24 weeks gestation in a human. Up to 24 weeks abortion is legal. After 24 weeks, the unborn life is referred to as an unborn child and has full legal rights in the UK.

NRT's - New Reproductive Technologies. Any bio-technology which intervenes in, and assists with mammalian (including human) reproduction.

IVF - In Vitro fertilisation. Human eggs (ova) are fertilised by human sperm, outside the womans body in a glass (in vitro) dish. Eggs and sperm are known as gametes. The fertilised eggs (usually three), known as zygotes, are transferred to the womans womb in the hopes that at least one will implant.

AIH - Artificial Insemination (husband): the husbands sperm are taken from him and are clinically inserted into his wife soon after a ovulation (egg release) to provide optimum chance of fertilisation.

DI - Donor Insemination. Like AIH, except that the sperm comes from a donor other than the husband.

Surrogacy - A woman, X, carries an embryo to full term in her womb for a woman, Y. The sperm usually comes from Y's husband, the egg can come from X or Y, or even possibly a third person acting as an egg donor.

Cloning - Producing a living organism from one stock of genetic ancestry…


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