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Ethical issues in respect of children born after assisted reproduction technologies
  1. Vic Larcher
  1. Correspondence to:
    Vic Larcher
    Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust, Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3JH, UK; larchv{at}

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Increasing use of ART brings ethical and social concerns that should be the subject of rational and informed debate and appropriate regulation

“ …the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against their will, is the prevention of harm to others……” John Stuart Mill On Liberty 1859

In matters concerning the welfare of children there may be tensions between the liberty rights of parents and the protection rights of children.1 This tension is important in considering the ever-widening application of assisted reproduction technologies (ART) that enable couples to exercise considerable reproductive autonomy. The UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990 requires clinics providing ART to take account of the welfare of children so conceived (the welfare principle).2 Since 1990 there have been advances in the scope of ART and possible changes in public perception and attitudes on the complex ethical issues involved. There is continuing debate as to whether the current regulatory framework is sufficient to safeguard the welfare of those concerned, including the increasing numbers of children conceived by ART, or is over intrusive. The UK’s regulatory body, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has revised its guidance on how ART providers should interpret the welfare principle,3 whilst the UK government has published proposals to revise the 1990 Act.4 Both have implications for children conceived by ART, which this paper will address.


The UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act S13 (5) states: “a woman shall not be provided with treatment services unless account has been taken of the welfare of any child who may be born as a result of the treatment (including the need of that child for a father) and any other child who may be affected by the birth”.2

The …

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