The ambiguities of ‘social’ egg freezing and the challenges of informed consent

Abstract

Fertility clinics (and some employers) in the UK and other high-income countries have recently started to offer egg freezing to women concerned about their age-related fertility decline. Because the use of egg freezing for this purpose is new, there is no reliable evidence of its usefulness, or otherwise. There are no guarantees that egg freezing will work, and for many and perhaps most women, their frozen eggs will never be used. It is also unclear whether egg freezing is a positive development for women in general. It offers an additional choice, and it may enable some women to have genetically related children more easily in the future. At the same time, it could be argued that egg freezing individualises and medicalises the social problem of a mismatch between female fertility and when women and men feel ready to have children. This article suggests that egg freezing is an ambiguous technology, whose benefits are as yet speculative, and that women therefore need as much clear and frank information as possible in order to navigate this new and by no means straightforward choice.

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Correspondence to Emily Jackson.

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This manuscript is comprised of original material and it is not based upon an empirical study. I have no competing interests – intellectual or financial – in the research detailed in the manuscript.

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Jackson, E. The ambiguities of ‘social’ egg freezing and the challenges of informed consent. BioSocieties 13, 21–40 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41292-017-0044-5

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Keywords

  • egg freezing
  • fertility
  • informed consent
  • medicalisation
  • egg donation