The donation and transfer of human gametes eggs and sperm for reproductive purposes raises many important and difficult questions. Some of these relate directly to policy and practice; others are more conceptual.
Gamete donation occupies an interesting position within bioethics, having something in common both with other forms of donation blood and organs, for example and with reproductive technologies not involving donation ranging from IVF through to more controversial areas like cloning, embryo selection, and genetic modification.
It also shares some features with adoption and surrogacypractices which also arguably at least involve the transfer or delegation of parental duties and rights. See entries on cloningeugenicsfeminist perspectives on reproduction and the familythe donation of human organsand parenthood and procreation. First, this entry focuses on the donation of Selling sperm eggs gametes for reproductive purposesas opposed to for research. The rationale for this is that most of the interesting ethical and philosophical issues here concern, in one way or another, the moral and social relations between the donors, parents recipientsand children created, Selling sperm eggs these do not generally arise in the research context.
Second, there is the question of what counts as reproductive gamete donation. Since the rights and responsibilities that attach to Selling sperm eggs are generally thought to be very weighty, determining whether or not gamete donors are parents is a question that has attracted much attention. While there is considerable overlap here with the literature on the ultimate basis of parenthood more generally see entry on parenthood and procreation questions about parenthood in the context of gamete donation have garnered much specific attention.
One important element that distinguishes the gamete donation literature examining parenthood from more general discussions of parental rights and responsibilities is the debate over the transferability of parental responsibilities.
In addition to the debate about parental responsibilities, some others suggest that gamete donors have certain non-parental responsibilities towards their offspring.
A common starting point for the claim that gamete donors acquire parental responsibilities is the intuition that individuals who reproduce by Selling sperm eggs, due to faulty contraception for example, possess parental responsibilities for their genetic children Weinberg ; Nelson ; Fuscaldo ; Blustein The strength of this intuition is used as motivation for adopting a view that ascribes parental responsibilities on the basis of causal involvement in the creation of a child causal views rather than a view that ascribes parental responsibilities only to those who voluntarily assent to them voluntarist views.
Many authors who argue that gamete donors are parents proceed by offering a theoretical Selling sperm eggs for this intuition, then apply this justification to gamete provision.
For instance, Nelson argues that our common-sense understanding of moral responsibility is what best explains our intuitions about parenthood in unintentional pregnancy.
On this common-sense view, individuals are morally responsible for the consequences of their free actions when 1 their actions are sufficient to bring about those consequences, and 2 their actions are causally proximate to the consequence in question. Fuscaldo similarly argues that parental responsibility in cases of accidental pregnancy is best explained by appeal to our standard account of moral responsibility, but argues that the standard account holds individuals morally responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their free actions.
Since bringing children into existence Selling sperm eggs a foreseeable consequence of donating gametes, gamete donors have a moral responsibility to care for the children they help create Fuscaldo Another route is to argue that reproduction is an unusual kind of case, and Selling sperm eggs special rules apply when determining what moral responsibilities arise from involvement in it. He argues that this is a special feature of our ability to reproduce that is not reducible to genetics or causality, and results in a presumptive duty to parent the children created from our gametes.
This, he argues, best explains why parental responsibility arises in accidental pregnancy cases. However, Rivka Weinberg offers an argument for a similar conclusion, but on more general grounds. As an example, she argues that an owner of a pet lion is liable for damage Selling sperm eggs by the lion, regardless of the precautions the owner takes to keep the lion contained. Consequently, Weinberg argues that gamete providers are obliged to care for the children that result from the voluntary use of their gametes Weinberg It is not the genetic similarity between gamete donors and their biological offspring that is doing the Selling sperm eggs, but rather considerations about the kind of thing gametes are things that can create people and the activity that gamete donors engage in with them.
Velleman, however, has argued that being parented by close genetic relations is of great importance to the wellbeing of children, and that for this reason we ought to be sceptical of the ease with which society permits the separation of social from biological parenthood. Bayne argues that gamete donors are not parents because both causal and genetic accounts of parental responsibility suffer from a problem of regress, and thus fail as plausible grounds for parenthood Bayne This because the donor is the product of the gametes of these previous generations.
Similarly, on a causal account like the Selling sperm eggs offered by Nelson, if a child was caused to exist by the actions of a sperm donor, then why not think that the person whose actions are responsible for the existence of the sperm donor is similarly a parent of the child.
Nelson does appeal to causal proximity, but explicitly rejects the view that merely being part of the causal chain resulting in the creation of a child is sufficient for parenthood Nelson A better route for challenging the view that gamete donors acquire parental responsibilities is to question whether responsibilities of this kind arise from causal involvement Selling sperm eggs procreation.
For instance, Brakeargues that Selling sperm eggs certain obligations towards children might arise as a result of causal involvement in procreation, it is a mistake to think that this includes the particularly intimate and weighty obligations subsumed in parenthood.
More will be said about this argument in section 1. BayneFuscaldoand Benatar all argue that even if gamete donors have parental responsibilities for their offspring initially, this does not mean that these cannot be transferred to others. In fact, there are circumstances where such transfers occur and we do not think they are problematic at all—adoption being one example.
Though Benatar holds that gamete donors often fail to take sufficient care when transferring their responsibilities to others, under the right conditions, transferring parental responsibilities is both permissible and possible. By contrast, some authors argue that such a transfer of responsibility is not possible, or at least not ethically permissible, at all Velleman ; Weinberg ; Nelson ; Brandt forthcoming.
For instance, Velleman argues that while adoption is acceptable when there is no other means to provide a child with an adequate life, this should not be confused with the intentional creation of children whose social link to their genetic parents will be severed. Because Velleman believes that preserving the social connection between children and genetic parents is of great importance for the wellbeing of children, he argues Selling sperm eggs, unless there is pressing reason to do otherwise, Selling sperm eggs ought to be parented by their genetic progenitors.
Selling sperm eggs Weinberg argues that parental responsibilities cannot be transferred in full because certain kinds of intimate responsibilities can only be fulfilled by particular individuals: For instance, a parent cannot transfer the obligation to support her child by attending a music or dance recital to a stranger.
Since Weinberg thinks that gamete donors have a responsibility to love their children and that, because responsibility to love a particular person is paradigmatic of the kind that cannot be transferred, at least some donor responsibilities are not transferable.