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Ethical issues in egg freezing

Ruth Macklin bioethics

As we have seen, egg freezing is a fascinating and growing technology but there are still potential problems in terms of access, outcomes and expectations.

In this interview, bioethicist Ruth Macklin lays out what she believes are the key ethical challenges involved in the practice of social egg freezing.

First, Professor Macklin highlights the advertising that is sometimes used in the private sector. In these adverts, the real statistics can sometimes get lost. At worst, they can be deliberately obscured.

Professor Macklin then discusses the issue raised in the previous video, of some companies offering egg freezing as a ‘perk’ to their female employees. This is by some accounts an increasing trend, especially in large, multi-national technology companies.

One consequence from this might be that an expectation of delayed childbearing is created, and that other options, such as workplace childcare, will not be prioritised.

In addition, a female employee with frozen eggs might find it harder to leave the company, as she would then need to cover the costs of egg storage and IVF herself.

Going back to our ethics glossary in Step 1.2, both of these ethical concerns would be examples of potential harm that a woman might be subjected to.

To make the correct ethical decision, we would need to assess the balance of harms by weighing up the effect of offering the technology versus not offering it, and weigh up in each case what would be in the best interests of the person in question.

For discussion: What do you think? Do you think the advertising can be misleading when it comes to social egg freezing? And is it ethical for companies to offer to cover the costs of egg freezing to their female employees? Please give your reasons either way.

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