Bioethics News

WHO to create universal right to a child

The World Health Organisation may redefine infertility so that everyone who wants a child but cannot will be considered infertile – including single men and gay and lesbian couples.

Currently the WHO defines infertility as “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse”. However, new guidelines could radically change this by treating social infertility in the same way as medical infertility. Dr David Adamson, an American IVF physician and one of the authors of the new standards, told the British media:

The definition of infertility is now written in such a way that it includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women. It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual’s got a right to  reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It’s a big change. It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should  have access to healthcare. It sets an international legal standard.  Countries are bound by it.”

Since the new standards do not appear to be available, it is unclear how broad they are. However, media reports suggest that having a child will be regarded as a fundamental right, opening the door to commercial surrogacy, amongst other policies. Of course, the WHO policies do not automatically override national legislation, but they will be used to pressure law-makers. 

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence.

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.