Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vatican workshop focuses on ethical treatment of infertility

The Pontifical Academy for Life hosted a one-day workshop on treating infertility in an ethical way.

Using in vitro fertilization to treat infertility is often unnecessary, as well as immoral, says Fr. Renzo Pegoraro, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Life. 

“There is a strong risk” of missing solutions to infertility by treating it with assisted reproductive technology, he told CNA. 

He believes the IVF approach to infertility is motivated by “the idea that technology can offer a solution without trying to resolve the real problem of infertility.”

The Pontifical Academy for Life began its 18th general assembly on Feb. 23 and finished on Saturday, Feb. 25 with a papal audience. 

As a part of its meeting, the academy hosted a public workshop on Feb. 24 that was dedicated to discussing treatments for infertility.

The workshop featured 16 experts that come from Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy and the United States, and was held in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall.

Fr. Pegoraro, who is both a medical doctor and moral theologian, hopes the discussions will help explain why infertility is on the rise across the world and what ethical solutions are available. 

“There are a lot of possibilities at the therapeutic level with medical, hormonal and surgical treatments that are the first line of approach in this field,” he said. 

He also thinks that trying to discover the underlying reasons for infertility can unlock the problem. 

He pointed to developed countries where “lifestyle factors” often play a significant part in causing infertility. These include “the age of childbearing for women, and the problems of smoking, obesity and alcohol use, and probably also a psychological stress in the life of the people.”

In the case of developing countries, he says “infections are more relevant,” along with “infective or sexually transmitted disease and major hygienic problems that have an impact on the couples.”

Fr. Pegoraro estimates that 15 percent of couples in the developed world are affected by infertility, while in developing countries that figure can rise to 30 percent.

Given those statistics, the focus of the workshop will be to urge the scientific community to improve its approach to preventing infertility and “to offer an update on the management of infertility at a diagnostic and therapeutic level.”