Embryo Adoption? An Egalitarian Perspective

  • Mary B. Mahowald
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 95)

Ethical questions about embryos generally center on determination of what if any moral status or right to life1 is attributed to them; analysis of embryo adoption hinges not only on that determination but also on the decisions of and impact on those affected. In this essay I only minimally consider the moral status of the human embryo because different positions on this issue are apparently irresolvable on the level of social policy. Because these positions are applicable to all human embryos, policies about adopting them should be consistent with other policies and decisions about embryos, regardless of how and why the embryos are obtained. I do not, therefore, distinguish between embryos that remain after infertility treatment and those that may be created for adoption. Personally, my views about the topic are consistent with but more restrictive than policies about embryos. With regard to policy as well as personal decision-making, the perspective I bring to my account may be described as egalitarian.

Using the term adoption in the title of this book tends to prejudge the question of the embryo’s moral status by suggesting that embryos are already children. As such, regardless of whether an embryo is gestating within a woman, it has the same right to life as a newborn. Nonetheless, many people, including Catholics who have had children through in vitro fertilization (IVF), do not agree with this position. From the standpoint of some Catholics, therefore, it is possible to view obligations to children as different from those owed to in vitro embryos.


Moral Status Human Embryo Potential Parent Social Parent Prenatal Testing 
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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary B. Mahowald
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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