Let us talk about eggs! Professional resistance to elective egg vitrification and gendered medical paternalism

Abstract

In this paper, by applying a feminist bioethical perspective, we identify a new form of medical paternalism that still shapes contemporary legal policies on human egg cryopreservation performed without medical reasons. The fear of negligent, careless women who opt to delay their pregnancy for mere convenience is a widely known gender biased stereotype. Nevertheless, the opinions and judgments of medical professionals on this issue have not yet been sufficiently explored by in-depth research. In this essay, therefore, first we look at the broader bioethical, legal, and social aspects of human egg cryopreservation. In the second part of the paper we discuss a unique qualitative study conducted with professionals working at Hungarian IVF clinics. We argue, based on a bioethical analysis of the collected data, that when new reproduction technologies provide opportunities for women to widen their range of reproductive choices, the traditional forms of medical paternalism can be reinforced by gendered paternalism, as well. We identify several elements of gendered paternalism that characterized the attitudes of the IVF staff and discuss the professionals’ resistance to elective egg freezing and vitrification of eggs for the future. We conclude by suggesting directions for future policy. Although we focus on the Hungarian case in this paper, we are aware that similar attitudes can be observed in some other countries where this technology has become available and requested by women, but where they also face difficulties in their access to it.

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Acknowledgements

This article is based on the research conducted within the framework of the NKI/OTKA Research Project 108981. Lilla Vicsek’s work was supported by a Bolyai János Research Fellowship.

Funding

This article is based on the research conducted within the framework of the NKI/OTKA Research Project 108981. One of the author’s work was supported by a Bolyai János Research Fellowship.

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Correspondence to Judit Sándor.

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Sándor, J., Vicsek, L. & Bauer, Z. Let us talk about eggs! Professional resistance to elective egg vitrification and gendered medical paternalism. Med Health Care and Philos 21, 311–323 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11019-017-9805-y

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Keywords

  • Oocyte cryopreservation
  • Social freezing
  • Elective egg freezing
  • Social egg freezing
  • Medical paternalism