In Vitro Fertilization — A Legal Perspective

  • Philip Reilly


The birth of a child via in vitro fertilization (I.V.F.) requires 1. aspiration of a pre-ovulatory oocyte; 2. fertilization of the egg by sperm in culture media; 3. normal cleavage to the blastula stage; 4. transfer and implantation into a human uterus and 5. a normal gestation. Although the first efforts to fertilize human ova in vitro were made several decades ago, only recently have such experiments succeeded (2). Three major problems have been resolved within the past few years. First, for a long time it was thought that extracorporeal fertilization could only be accomplished with sperm that had been “capacitated” in the female tract. However, studies with hamsters revealed that epididymal sperm could fertilize eggs cultured in tubal or follicular secretions (3). Further investigations led to the development of a culture medium that closely matched the uterine environment (4). Fertilization of mammalian eggs in vitro is now accomplished routinely (5). A second major advance has involved the perfection of the post-fertilization environment. If implantation is to be successful, then preimplantation development must proceed normally and embryo transfer (E.T.) technology must be perfected. Much research has been devoted to the problem of cleavage (the early divisions of the zygote) and to the development of transfer surgery (6). Finally, the clinical application of I.V.F. requires the timed harvest of oocytes. Recently it has become possible to control follicular development and oocyte maturation by the use of purified human menopausal and human chorionic gonadotrophins. These oocytes can now be harvested by laparoscopic aspiration, a simpler and safer technique than laparotomy (7).


Embryo Transfer Artificial Insemination Infertile Woman Human Oocyte Human Ovum 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Reilly
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical SciencesUSA

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