Thursday, February 05, 2009

Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Assisted Reproductive Technologies"

UPDATE: Please see my colleague Dr. Kate Ott's blog on this at
You no doubt have read or heard the news about the woman who gave birth to octopulets last week through IVF, after having already had six other children through assisted reproductive technologies. Many of the news reports had interviews with medical doctors saying that they were not prepared to talk about the ethics of the situation.

Last spring, we brought together theologians, ethicists, and experts in ART to develop a new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Assisted Reproductive Technologies. It calls for religious leaders to become knowledge about ARTS and for scientists to engage with religious leaders and theologians to consider the ethical implications of these new technologies. One of the participant's words still ring in my ears: "Just because we can, should we?"

I'm copying the press release below. Please go to our web site and read the Open Letter and the accompanying support materials, including books for more information, a responsive reading, and questions for reflection. And weigh in.

Just because we can, should we?

Press Release

The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing today issued a call to the nation’s religious leaders to engage the ethical considerations of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and to become stronger counselors and advocates for the safety, effectiveness and accessibility of these technologies.

The Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Assisted Reproductive Technologies, developed by a group of clergy, theologians, ethicists and reproductive health advocates, appears amidst a national debate over the use of in vitro fertilization and other technologies that can produce multiple births. "The broad spectrum of assisted reproductive technologies calls for deeply personal and complex moral decisions that are unprecedented in human history," the Open Letter says. "Religious leaders and theologians have an integral role to play with families, medical providers, and scientists as these technologies unfold."

The Open Letter calls on religious leaders to:

Study the teachings of their faith traditions as well as the current science related to reproduction, families and ARTs

Promote denominational study of pastoral and ethical responses

Advocate for counseling, accurate medical information, health and safety regulations, and increased research into the risks and efficacy of ARTs

Speak out against ART practices that violate human rights and dignity

"When you consider that one in eight American woman of childbearing age has used an infertility service, it is clear that the ethics and efficacy of reproductive technologies is a growing pastoral concern," said Rev. Debra W. Haffner, director of the Religious Institute. "The use of these technologies raises important moral questions regarding the need for regulations, prohibitive costs that deny access to low‐income families, and discriminatory policies and practices. Unfortunately, the rapid growth of assisted reproductive technologies has outpaced religious and ethical discernment."

The Open Letter urges faith communities to support public funding of prevention, screening and diagnosis of infertility, as well as access to information, health care and unbiased counseling. Effective and safe ARTs should be made available in ways that "respect the diversity of family structure and not exclude on the basis of partner status, economic circumstances, or sexual orientation," the Open Letter says.

The Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Assisted Reproductive Technologies was developed at a colloquium sponsored by the Religious Institute. Participants represented a diverse range of religious perspectives, including Roman Catholic, Jewish, Mainline Protestant and Unitarian Universalist, as well as leading universities and national reproductive health advocacy organizations.

The full text of the Open Letter, including a list of participants, is available on the Religious Institute web site. This spring, the Religious Institute will publish a guidebook, A Time to be Born, to assist religious leaders in addressing the moral and religious implications of assisted reproductive technologies.

1 comment:

ogre said...

Fire, knife...

There is no technology I can think of that humanity hasn't found a second edge to. Paper? (Paper cuts--and propaganda, junk mail...)

Banning a technology won't make it go away. It will drive it underground.

What are needed (in this case) are professional and social barriers that make the misuses discouraged and disapproved of... or formally frowned upon by professional bodies.

I say that as someone whose family has considered and used some ART, and who has counseled someone dealing with its consequences.

Everything has consequences or could. We need to practice the art of thinking ahead, and considering possible consequences.