‘Making Babies in the Lab: The Morality of Reproductive Technologies’: Dr Mehmet Çiftçi

The following is the opening statement by our Public Bioethics Fellow, Dr Mehmet Çiftçi, in a recent debate at the Battle of Ideas Festival on ‘Making Babies in the Lab: The Morality of Reproductive Technologies’. Dr Mehmet Çiftçi’s opponents were Ann Furedi (former Chief Executive of BPAS), research scientist Dr Günes Taylor, and genetic counsellor Nicky Drury.


Anyone who has become a parent, an aunt, or an uncle, knows that having children is a beautiful thing. It’s easy then to sympathise with the pain of those who cannot have children due to infertility.

But feeling compassion for infertile couples is not enough to tell us whether it is ethical to use artificial reproductive technologies. To answer that question, we should first ask ourselves whether these technologies are good for the children that are made by them, whether they serve the needs of children — or if they merely fulfil the desires of adults. Children are vulnerable; they can’t advocate for their needs or defend their rights. It’s therefore up to us to ensure that we do not prioritise the desires of adults at the expense of children’s needs. When choosing how to bring a child into this world, we should be willing to adjust our plans to what they need, rather than compromising on what is best for them just to suit what we want. Because no matter how strongly you may wish to be a parent, at the end of the day you do not have the right to have a child, by whatever means necessary, for the same reason that no one has the right to another person.  

When you look at it that way, you may begin to doubt whether we should be making babies in a lab at all. For example, think about the creation of children by IVF using donated sperm or eggs or even a donated embryo. This process cuts off the connection between children and one or two of their biological parents, often meaning that they suffer from what psychologists call ‘genealogical bewilderment.’ They struggle to form a sense of who they are, because they do not know whose they are.

This can happen to children who are adopted as well. But the difference is that adoption is a way to make the best of a terrible situation where the biological parents cannot look after their child for some serious reason. On the other hand, with IVF we knowingly and willingly choose to deprive a child of contact with their biological roots. One of the few studies to investigate the costs of creating children this way has found that donor-conceived kids experience profound struggles with their identities, have family relationships that more often suffer confusion and tension, as well as divorce and instability; they are more likely to struggle with addiction, depression, and delinquency than children raised by their biological parents.

This is not even to mention the other problems of IVF. It often demands the creation of more embryos than are needed, to increase the chances of becoming pregnant with the baby that you want, which means that in the process many embryos have their short lives ended when they are no longer deemed necessary; or they are discarded if there are signs that they would develop a disability. I don’t have time to mention also the risks to the health of the gestational mother, to the egg donor, and to the child conceived via IVF.

None of these problems that I have mentioned exist whenever technology is used to find and treat the underlying diseases that prevent a couple from conceiving, which is a good and wonderful use of technology that deserves more funding and support.

But, by contrast, artificial reproductive technologies do not cure anything. All they offer is a way to make a lot of money from an adult’s desire for a child, at the callous expense of human life, and often at the expense of children’s need to know and be brought up by their biological parents.

Most recent

Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide (EAS)

Press Statement – Support for Assisted Suicide Ebbs Away in Scotland

16 April 2024

The Journal of Medical Ethics Forum has released an article by Prof. David Albert Jones, Director of...

Embryo Research

Director Gives Presentation to the Babraham Institute on Embryo Research

10 April 2024

Recently our Director, Professor David Albert Jones, provided a presentation to the Babraham Institu...

Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide (EAS)

Press Statement – A Further Warning From Oregon: More Assisted Suicides, More Bad Deaths

22 March 2024

This week, Oregon produced its twenty-sixth ‘Death With Dignity Act’ Report. This shows that 2023 sa...

Support Us

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre is supported by the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, but has also always relied on donations from generous individuals, friends and benefactors.

FIND OUT MORE MAKE A DONATION