Reproductive Technologies

Reproductive Technologies

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Throughout the past several years, the gap between technological change and policy development has continued to grow at a rapid pace. As this gap continues to widen, Canadians continue to face important questions involving the social, legal and ethical issues involving newly developed technologies. Canadians are concerned with how these technologies will impact society as they are faced with the situation of technology developing at a faster pace than the issues they raise can be addressed. Many people are beginning to wonder if the federal government is doing its part to develop policies that will protect and promote human dignity and rights, ensure the health and safety of all Canadians and protect the best interests of concerned individuals. Is the government taking the initiative to protect individuals from the harmful developments in reproductive technology?
In order to understand how the government is addressing the issues of reproductive technologies, it is important to discuss how these issues are viewed by society. The inability to have one's own biological children is the key demand of couples that require the use of reproductive technologies. Some Canadians feel that infertility is a dysfunction of the body and should be regarded as a medical condition (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/nrgt/chapt-3.pdf). Other Canadians define infertility as a social condition because they believe the desire to have children results from the social pressure placed on married couples, particularly women, to bear children (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/nrgt/chapt-3.pdf). In an effort to allow infertile couples to produce their own biological children, new reproductive technologies are being introduced.
The government has taken steps to encourage and regulate technological development while ensuring that the values of society are maintained. The Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies is developing federal policies to regulate the scientific advancement of technologies by developing standards, licensing laws, information registries, health surveillance, and enforcement and compliance. However, Canadians are still confronted with important questions about the limitations of technological research and the legal issues raised by new reproductive technologies.
One of the main objectives that need to be addressed by the government is how to protect reproductive materials outside the body and protect individuals by making sure they give permission for their materials to be used. Consent plays a key factor in medical research due to the fact that failure to receive consent violates the principles of individual independence and respect for others.

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The government intends to prevent the selling and buying of reproductive materials in an effort to reduce these practices and to protect women bearing children for others.
Protecting the dignity and security of others is an important consideration when developing public policies involving new reproductive technologies. Such people include children born through genetic reproduction, individuals or couples seeking assistance in these technologies, and persons with disabilities. The newly developed technology of maintaining an embryo in an artificial womb eliminates the woman's role in reproduction. This dehumanizes motherhood because women are no longer needed to give birth to their children. Also, the use of reproductive materials in duplicating gametes diminishes the value of human individuality. The Royal Commission found the retrieval of eggs from fetuses for fertilization to be deeply offensive to the self-respect of individuals and is in the process of developing policies that would address this issue.
Individuals have the right to make their own decisions in all aspects regarding health care. The Royal Commission developed policies to address providing health care for those who use reproductive technologies based on the fact that both individual and collective interests are valuable and neither is more important than the other. Individual well being includes those of the children born through reproductive technologies, gamete donors, women or couples seeking assisted reproduction or prenatal diagnosis. Children born from assisted reproduction such as in vitro fertilization may face increased health risks. Even though doctors are aware of the short-term effects of reproductive technologies, the long-term ones are still unknown. These effects cannot be determined until the child affected has been through their developmental stages and has become an adult. In order for the government to protect the interests of people with regards to health care, the long-term effects of reproductive technologies need to be known.
Children born through the use of donor gametes tend to face legal uncertainty regarding family relationships. The principle established regarding inheritance, custody and support issues is that "the legal mother of a child is the woman who gives birth to that child even if a donor egg is used. The legal father of a child born from donor sperm is the male partner of the child's mother, providing he gave his consent to the procedure." (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/nrgt/chap-2.pdf) The Royal Commission recommended "that non-identifying information on gamete donors should be available." This method was encouraged because it appeared to balance the child's need for information about his/her origins and the family's need to maintain a strong bond.
Although the issues surrounding reproductive technologies are still fairly new, the government has started to take initiatives to develop policies that will attempt to protect individuals. The government is taking into account the concerns of Canadians with respect to protecting their dignity, health rights and the best interests of those affected by reproductive technologies. The efforts of the government have been successful in addressing the issue of reproductive technologies, but technology is continuing to develop at a much faster pace than the government is developing policies. The future of reproductive technologies is still uncertain but the government is taking the first steps to ensure that Canadians are protected.
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