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June 5, 1972

Shall We "Reproduce"?I. The Medical Ethics of In Vitro Fertilization

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Religion, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ. Dr. Ramsey is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion and the author of The Patient as Person: Explorations in Medical Ethics (New Haven, Conn, Yale University Press, 1971).

JAMA. 1972;220(10):1346-1350. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200100058012

I must judge that in vitro fertilization constitutes unethical medical experimentation on possible future human beings, and therefore it is subject to absolute moral prohibition. I ask that my exact language be noted: I said, unethical experimentation on possible future human beings. By this, I mean the childto-be, the "successful" experiments when they come.

I mean to exclude three things that could be said additionally to make a showing of medical immorality and a notation of illicitness upon the trials that are currently being performed. Excluded are (1) the charge that before going to human experimentation physicians should not have omitted first proving their technique in species more closely related to man, on the primates, eg, monkeys. This is a question of the background needed in the experimental design which an amateur cannot judge. Still I do know enough about discussions among ethical physicians concerning the need to complete the