It’s highly unusual for a journal to publish a research paper accompanied by an editorial and a guest commentary expressing grave reservations about its ethics.
But that’s what Human Reproduction did with a study of a more cost-effective version of IVF.
The researchers recruited dozens of young women from the Mexican city of Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific Coast, and paid them US$1400. They were given fertility drugs to stimulate the production of eggs and artificially inseminated. Then 4 to 6 days later, the embryos were flushed out and examined.
The researchers wanted to see whether the embryos were as genetically healthy as embryos created through standard IVF in a laboratory. It turns out that they are, according to Santiago Munné, a Catalan reproductive geneticist who was the lead author of the study. This could lead to cheaper, simpler IVF.
Ethical complications? Just a few.
For starters, here’s what the editors pointed out:
… fertile women not wishing to become pregnant were exposed to ovarian hyperstimulation and were treated with intrauterine insemination with semen that did not necessarily come from their own partner. Despite uterine flushing, not all embryos were retrieved and some women accidentally became pregnant. For termination of pregnancy, those women were then treated with methotrexate (MTX), some even with a dilation & curettage (D&C). All of the above interventions are potentially harmful to the women who did not benefit directly from participation—other than through financial compensation.
The guest commentary was negative, with question marks hovering over all ethical aspects of the study: autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence….
The above comes from a Jan. 18 story in BioEdge.