In an earlier article, I outlined the results of my research on psychological aspects of conception by (third party involvement) egg donation. I reported that pregnant women who had conceived a child by donor egg revealed less maternal-fetal attachment, considered both chance, fate and professionals playing a more significant role in the health of their baby (belief in external factors rather than themselves) and demonstrated lower health practices than women who had conceived naturally.
This was not surprising as also reported in one of my earlier studies I found that Iranian women and the public have more concerns about children born by egg donation due to lack of genetic links, issues of secrecy, and whether or not the society will welcome such actions.
Furthermore, the comments made by most of the women in my previous study indicated that their actions to conceive via third party donor were due to the social pressures and expectations that women in Iran must conceive soon after marriage.
Being infertile is frowned upon by family, friends and social interactions. Most women commented that perhaps in hindsight conception by egg donation was not the best option.
This accordingly demonstrates the extent that medical ethics has to play a role in how professionals consider the benefits to the patients, as opposed to the desire to conceive by whatever means. The question that medical professionals may have to consider is the extent to which new medical innovations (in particular, conception by egg donation) may cross paths with cultural norms, traditions and religious beliefs.
This is particularly true in a country such as Iran with deeply rooted religious beliefs, the significance of genetic links, and living in a collectivist society in which people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of themselves in exchange for loyalty, particularly as a community, family or nation more than as an individual. Thus, what actions people take will be of concern to others.
Looking back decades ago Clayton Christensen argued for a theoretical framework of disruptive innovation theory, maintaining that any new innovation may come into conflict with the public perceptions due to existing traditions and norms. Although, this theoretical concept was originally developed in relation to new innovations in the field of business, variations of this model have been applied to other fields, such as the healthcare system and political system.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is also a good example of how new innovations in the format of in vitro fertilisation and the birth of Louise Brown provoked tabloid and religious concerns in its early stages.
The Vatican warning that doctors and scientists might find themselves struggling to contain the consequences of their actions and thus not all scientific advances are for the good of humanity.
The results of my study on Iranian women and a recent ongoing doctoral research on the Mayan and Ladino ethnic groups in Guatemala are indications that new medical innovations may come into conflict with existing norms, traditions, and religious beliefs.
The key issues to consider for medical personnel and practitioners is that with any new medical innovations, consideration of balancing the positive and negative aspects of new innovations is of prime importance, particularly in relation to sensitive actions such as conception by egg donation.
Image credit: Freepik
Dr Manijeh Pir Jalian is a clinical psychologist and doctoral researcher, working on perceptions and consequences of children born by egg donation at Middlesex University in London.