The Greek Orthodox position on the ethics of assisted reproduction

  1. Lemma
  2. The Greek Orthodox position on the ethics of assisted reproduction
  3. English
  4. Delli, Eudoxie
  5. Ethics - Scientific theories and disciplines > Medicine - Orthodox Anthropology - Various approaches to the problem of correlation between science and theology
  6. 2008
  7. Hatzinikolaou, (Metropolitan of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki) Nikolaos [Author]. The Greek Orthodox position on the ethics of assisted reproduction
  8. Reproductive Biomedicine Online
  9. nature and spiritual status of the embryo - IVF (in vitro fertilisation) - Greek Orthodox Church
    1. <p>Hatzinikolaou, N. (2008). The Greek Orthodox position on the ethics of assisted reproduction.<em> Reproductive Biomedicine Online</em>, <em>17/3</em>, 25-33. </p>
    1. According to the author, assisted reproduction constitutes undoubtedly one of the most impressive achievements of medicine and biological sciences, given that is connected with the birth of a new human being. At the same time, however, the problem of the degree of quality of life of this new human being and its parents cannot be ignored. The field of technologically assisted reproduction or, more correctly stated, of artificial fertilization is of utmost importance both psychologically and socially, and bears great spiritual significance.

      For the Greek Orthodox Church, the quality of life of a human being does not only include biological or psychological integration and social wellbeing, but also the possibility of spiritual development. This spiritual dimension bestows on man a sense of psychosomatic harmony and the prospect of his existential fulfilment. In dealing with reproduction, the Orthodox Church believes that every human being has a beginning but has no end; this is why conception constitutes an event of unique importance. The exact moment of the beginning of life is unknown to man, but the logic of sexual intercourse without reproduction and of reproduction without sexual intercourse must be seen with concern. Irrespective of the way it is conceived, the embryo has both a human beginning and a human perspective and within it, along with cellular multiplication, another process takes place, the beginning and development of its soul. Undoubtedly, modern medical technology has greatly contributed to health research and promises even more achievements. This is considered an exceptional blessing from God. Nevertheless, its irrational use threatens to ‘desacralize’ man and treats him as a machine with spare parts and accessories.

      All of the above prove that modern techniques of artificial fertilization have ethical and spiritual parameters that compel the Church to keep its reservations that are based on the four following points: (i) the conception of human through contemporary techniques is asexual in the sense that it lacks the sacredness, safety and reassurance of marital sexual intercourse. Human is no longer being born naturally, but is being manufactured artificially; (ii) contrary to the embryos and spermatozoa, the eggs cannot be easily frozen, although rapid progress in this field is occurring. Therefore, present practices facilitate the retrieval of eggs, the fertilization of which leads to the problem of surplus embryos and frozen embryos; (iii) the fact that fertilization is performed outside the maternal body and in the absence of parents creates multiple choices of unnatural and unethical fertilizations that are accompanied by serious problems; and (iv) IVF offers vast possibilities of preimplantation genetic processing and intervention (invasion) bearing serious consequences.

      In conclusion, the Orthodox Church does not oppose resorting to medical help, but, at the same time, states that man’s sanctification is not only effected through childbearing. Biological sterility may become the cause of rich spiritual fertility for the spouses, when they accept humbly God’s will in their life. On the contrary, when the desire to have children becomes a stubborn will, it reveals spiritual immaturity. The Church can neither recommend assisted reproduction as the solution to infertility, nor is its role to approve resolutions; instead, it proposes a non-secularized perception on life and gives the ethos of its teaching with clarity and freedom through pastoral guidance. Moreover, the Church ought to exercise its influence so that the erroneous social perceptions on sterility are eradicated and the indiscreet pressures from the family environment towards the sterile couples are limited and to help sterile couples realize that an inadequacy in such a vital sector of life is usually accompanied by numerous opportunities in other fields that wait to be fulfilled.