‘The in vitro method is vile’, the bishops claimed. ‘Additionally, it is very harmful to health’, physicians say.
Just after their wedding Michal and Agnieszka Pietrusinski made an attempt to treat their infertility. But the doctors could not help them. ‘You cannot have children in the natural way. The only solution is in vitro fertilisation’, they said. But the Pietrusinskis did not want to do that. They did not regard it as a way to treat infertility. They asked their doctor to find out the reasons for their infertility and to treat them so that she can have a child in the natural way. Unfortunately, their practitioner did not want to help them and he did not even give any diagnosis. Another practitioner, whom they told that they did not want to use the in vitro method and that they were thinking of adoption, began warning them against adoption.
Side effects of adoption?
‘I have learnt about many side effects of adoption from him, for example that it will ruin my life but the doctor did not say a word about the side effects of the in vitro method. But there are a lot of side effects of the pills stimulating many ovulations and that such stimulation can cause the woman’s death’, Pietrusinska says. Tow weeks later she conceived a daughter in the natural way. Today they think that physicians do not diagnose concrete reasons for couple’s infertility; instead they propose and recommend the in vitro method. Therefore, one cannot regard ‘in vitro’ as a method to treat infertility.
In vitro fertilisation does not treat infertility but it simply causes a human life come into existence. Some doctors say that the aim of in vitro is to have a child. But a child is not a thing. You can possess a thing but you cannot possess a child.
A child is not a thing
In vitro fertilisation does not treat infertility but it simply causes a human life come into existence. Some doctors say that the aim of in vitro is to have a child. But a child is not a thing. You can possess a thing but you cannot possess a child. This is the opinion of Zofia Dlutek from the Catholic Adoption-Tutelary Centre in Warsaw. She adds that many couples do not know at all what the in vitro method is. They treat it as another, very expensive stage of treatment that must be successful. ‘Married couples long to have a child. They want it very much. But what does the clinic answer in case of failure or miscarriage? It does not provide any psychological support for the couple that has experienced another failure.’
The Bishops’ Conference is against in vitro fertilisation
The recently published letter of the Episcopate’s Council for Family, directed to the members of the Parliament, strongly opposes in vitro fertilisation. The bishops reminded the MPs of the teaching of the Church concerning the vile method and stressed that ‘many embryos are destroyed in every fertilisation attempt, which is a kind of refined abortion.’ Moreover, the bishops indicated that ‘every child has the right to be conceived during an act of their parents’ marital love.’
What did the bishops mean? In vitro fertilisation is the process of fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. When the IVF procedure is successful, the process is combined with a procedure known embryo transfer - usually after 48 hours - which is used to physically place the embryo in the uterus. Then the embryo develops. Before the whole ‘operation’ starts the woman undergoes hormonal treatment to stimulate the ovulation. If no pregnancy follows, the treatment is repeated in the next menstruation, using the extra embryos, which are frozen and kept in the so-called sperm bank. The main objection is based on the fact that one needs to use at least a few embryos, or even several fertilised embryos, i.e. human beings, to have one successful pregnancy. In other words, in order to cause one human life come into existence several conceived human beings must be killed. On 4 January ‘Rzeczpospolita’ wrote that over one million embryos were destroyed in Great Britain in various fertilisation attempts. How many in Poland? Nobody destroys embryos in Poland. ‘The frozen embryos have been kept without any time limit’, the supporters of the in vitro method claim. ‘I hope that the embryos are not destroyed in Poland. But the consequence of using the in vitro method is the radical disproportion between the number of frozen embryos and the possibility of using them’, says Rev. Professor Andrzej Szostek, ethicist at the Catholic University of Lublin.
One needs to use at least a few embryos, or even several fertilised embryos, i.e. human beings, to have one successful pregnancy. In other words, in order to cause one human being come into existence, several conceived human beings must be killed.
Human dignity should not be regulated by a decree
‘An embryo is not a human being yet’, this is another argument of the supporters of the in vitro method. But do we regulate human dignity by a decree or do we recognise it? If we regulate it by a decree, i.e. we grant it, we can actually accept various criteria of human dignity, for example age, race, origin. There have been many such cases in the history of mankind. But the constitution of the Republic of Poland stresses that human dignity cannot be legally regulated, granted but is to be recognised and acknowledged. Naturally, you can discuss whether an embryo is a human being or not. But the doubts alone suffice to respect human being at his/her earliest stage of development. ‘Since doubts should support the one whom they concern’, says Rev. Professor Szostek. The Church also emphasizes that any child is God’s gift. And it does matter that in case of the in vitro method life and death are subject to man’s decision. ‘This may foretell the dangerous perspective of thinking about a child not within the category of a gift and the child’s autonomy but first of all, to think about it as the fulfilment of one’s need of parenthood’, Fr Szostek says.
Method is harmful to health
In his interview for the Catholic Information Agency (KAI), Dr. Jerzy Umiastowski, who presided over the Medical Ethics Committee of the Polish Chamber of Physicians and Dentists, pays attention to the fact that it is very unlikely to carry to term a multiple pregnancy resulted from in vitro fertilisation. ‘Therefore, you reduce the number of births by injecting potassium chloride into the fetuses, leaving only one, which stops the fetal hearts and causes their deaths. Only one foetus is alive and it has greater chances to survive. Moreover, the pregnant woman, fertilised in vitro, needs to be hormonally stimulated. She takes big doses of appropriate hormones, which increase her chance to carry the pregnancy to term. However, this hormonal stimulation can cause various serious defects and can be risky to the woman’s health’, says Dr. Umiastowski.
According to him, Polish public opinion is not properly informed about the ethical and legal problems concerning the in vitro fertilisation. ‘There are not many fundamental legal regulations concerning this procedure but the result of the procedure is human beings and only few has the chance to survive’, Dr Umiastowski laments.
In case of the in vitro method life and death are subject to man’s decision. ‘This may foretell the dangerous perspective of thinking about a child not within the category of a gift and the child’s autonomy but first of all, to think about it as the fulfilment of one’s need of parenthood’.
The text is based on the discussion organised by the Catholic Information Agency (the cycle ‘Rozmowy w KAI’), which was held in Warsaw on 4 January 2008.