The process of justifying assisted reproductive technologies in Iran

Ehsan Shamsi Gooshki, Neda Allahbedashti

Abstract

Infertility is medically defined as one year of unprotected intercourse that does not result in pregnancy. Infertility is a noticeable medical problem in Iran, and about a quarter of Iranian couples experience primary infertility at some point in their lives. Since having children is a basic social value in Iran, infertility has an adverse effect on the health of the couple and affects their well-being. The various methods of assisting infertile couples raise several ethical questions and touch upon certain sensitive points. Although the present Iranian legislative system, which is based on the Shi’a school of Islam, has legalised some aspects of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), given the absence of a general officially ratified act (official pathway), such medical interventions are usually justified through a fatwa system (non-official pathway). Officially registered married couples can access almost all ART methods, including third-party gamete donation, if they use such pathways. The process of justifying ART interventions generally began when in vitro fertilisation was given the nod and later, Ayatollah Khamenei (the political-religious leader of the country) issued a fatwa which permitted gamete donation by third parties. This open juristic approach paved the way for the ratification of the Embryo Donation to Infertile Spouses Act in 2003.

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