Consider social consequences of fertility treatments

Social egg freezing and the three-parent technique may appear sound from a scientific or medical perspective ("Beating the female biological clock"; Dec 20), but what social effects would they have?

Neither technique is a guaranteed or reliable path to parenthood for older women.

Rather, the availability of such treatments may give young couples a false sense of hope that they can further delay marriage and parenthood. This would surely derail the Government's efforts to encourage couples to get married and have children early.

The fact is that older women face health risks when getting pregnant. Besides the financial cost, there is also an increased chance of miscarriage, which will have a long-term emotional and psychological impact on both parents.

Scientists seeking to further their research and application of the three-parent technique have argued that the treatment can be used to overcome genetic diseases.

The same reason is being used to justify social egg freezing.

What is there to prevent these treatments from morphing to serve other undesirable ends?

For example, surrogacy was intended to help infertile couples, but has since been exploited for other purposes, such as baby sales.

The human egg cell is a basis for life. If surplus eggs can be frozen and donated, that would make life a commodity that can be exchanged and traded.

Scientists are limited by the here and now, and cannot guarantee the effects of their treatments on future generations.

Medical perspectives should be weighed against other perspectives, taking into account the social consequences.

The Government must act with caution in considering whether to permit these treatments.

Grace Chua Siew Hwee (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2016, with the headline 'Consider social consequences of fertility treatments'. Print Edition | Subscribe