The Straits Times
Published on Nov 24, 2012

Legal aspects of assisted reproduction not the issue


THE heart of the concerns dealing with the legal status of children conceived through assisted reproductive technology (ART) may not be its legal aspects but the ethical, biological, social and psychological impact ("New laws proposed for status of IVF children"; Tuesday).

Based on data on the number of babies born through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) from 2006 to 2010, the average annual growth rate has been about 16 per cent. A linear progression at this rate over the next 20 years will yield a total figure of about 82,000 babies born through IVF.

Have the various government agencies reviewed the pros and cons of ART, including alternative ways to increase population growth?

ART is a relatively new but specific method available only to a certain socio-economic class. The associated risks of consanguinity occurring in the population have not been clearly documented.

Have enough conclusive studies been conducted to reveal any relative psychological and mental health differences in children born through ART?

For instance, those born in 2006 are six years old today. Perhaps the Health Ministry could conduct studies to ascertain whether IVF babies demonstrate growth traits like those of any naturally conceived child.

Singapore's small population of at most six million may not provide the optimal gene pool for healthy genetic diversity and vigour in the long term. Issues may arise when the IVF child grows up and unknowingly mates with his cousin or step-relative, both of whom had come from the same egg or sperm donor.

Will the ministry guarantee that such incidents will not happen within our small population? Are there limits on the number of times an egg or sperm donor is allowed to participate in these technical procreation processes?

ART interferes with nature in the long term by artificially increasing the chances of mingling similar homologous chromosomes from common parentage. This would spell inconceivable disaster for the well-being of our future generations.

George Lim