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Health concerns in the unregulated context

Ruth Macklin bioethics

Ruth Macklin is a principal collaborator of The Ethics Centre at the Institute for Women’s Health, UCL and a Professor of Bioethics, Albert Einstein College in New York. She is one of the founders of the field of bioethics, and has published widely, especially in reproductive ethics.

In this video, she describes two of the key worries that have been raised when people exchange gametes outside of the regulated framework of fertility clinics. These are the worry around sexually transmitted diseases, and the issue of hereditary conditions.

Sexual health concerns are particularly worrisome when it comes to natural insemination, meaning when normal intercourse is the way in which the donor-conception is planned. These worries do not completely disappear in the case of artificial insemination, as the sperm itself can carry bacterial and viral infections.

Additionally, there is the concern that the donor could be the carrier of a hereditary disease. This might be known to the donor, or it could be that the donor is a carrier of a disorder that they were not aware of. In the regulated clinic context, genetic screening is available and there is a chance such a disorder would have been picked up.

For discussion: Do you think the health concerns involved are enough to warrant more regulation in this area? Are such arrangements any different from dating apps such as Tinder, which are increasingly used for non-committed, sexual encounters?

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