Bioethics Blogs

Cross-Border Reproduction: An “Ethic of Care” and an Unregulated Market

Brocher Foundation

Concerns about cross-border fertility arrangements – especially human rights violations of women serving as surrogate mothers or providing eggs – brought 23 participants (including myself) from 14 countries  to a three-and-a-half-day workshop at the Brocher Foundation near Geneva, Switzerland in January.

The event was called Inter-country medically assisted reproduction: Conceiving a human rights ethic of care, and its aim was “to explore and conceptualize ethical principles for a human rights-based regime of governance that might offer an alternative to the unregulated market.” It was co-organized by Carmel Shalev of the Department for Reproduction and Society at Haifa University’s Center for Health, Law and Ethics, and Gabriele Werner-Felmayer of the Division of Biological Chemistry at Medical University Innsbruck and its bioethics network Ethucation.

In addition to intensive discussion, we were treated to a screening of an award-winning documentary about surrogacy in India, Ma Na Sapna (A Mother’s Dream), which to my knowledge has not been widely screened in North America. Austrian director Valerie Gudenus was present, and answered a flurry of questions about the film and the several months she spent with a camera crew at the Akanksha Infertility Clinic.

Workshop sessions were devoted to exploring the meaning of an “ethic of care,” and how it would apply to surrogacy, third-party gamete providers, and embryo selection. Not surprisingly, a range of views surfaced among the gathered public interest and women’s health advocates, bioethicists, biologists, physicians, anthropologists, legal scholars, and others. But there was enough shared perspective for a series of recommendations to emerge, and a report explaining the background and reasoning for them is planned.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.