The Role of professional facilitators in cross-border assisted reproduction

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Reproductive Biomedicine and Society Online, 2018, 6 pp. 60 - 71
Issue Date:
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© 2018 The Author The operations of those who facilitate travel across international borders for access to assisted reproduction are little understood. Within the broader field of research into medical travel facilitators, most empirical studies have addressed websites and promotional materials, with few qualitative investigations of individuals who are service providers. The research presented here centres on interviews with 23 professionals facilitating cross-border assisted reproduction. This study sought to understand how facilitators and service providers operate within a professional framework, examining their understanding of the ethical limits on their roles within a largely unregulated and rapidly evolving international ‘marketplace’. Broadly, participants trusted in the market to ‘find its own level’, such that unscrupulous players would not succeed because others would not refer to, or work with, them. In instances where a clear risk to the health of reproductive contributors or to the well-being of future children was perceived, participants understood their own ethical duty to be limited to service denial or withdrawal of participation. Among the eight facilitators who were not legal or medical professionals, there was a striking commonality, in that all had personal experience of assisted reproduction, both as patients and as reproductive contributors. Within this group, and particularly among the six women who directly ‘matchmade’ arrangements between intended parents, egg donors and surrogates, was a strong sense of ‘embodied’ expertise and claims to ethical practice based upon that expertise.
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