Attitudes of Infertile Couples, Fertility Clinic Staff and
Researchers toward Personhood of The
Human Embryo in Iran
After the introduction of assisted reproductive techniques, human embryos were officially introduced into laboratories and now thousands of them are cryopreserved in such settings. Embryonic stem cells and the future application of such cells in the treatment of disease opened the door to further research on human embryos. These developments raise many ethical issues, some of which have religious aspects. The main question is: what is the embryo? Should we consider it a human being? Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate attitudes towards the personhood of the embryo.
Materials and Methods
In this cross sectional study, 203 infertile patients (n=406), 54 clinic staff and 49 embryo researchers, selected using convenience sampling at the Royan Institute, completed a questionnaire on personhood of human embryo. The questionnaire had been developed following qualitative research and had satisfied face and content validity tests.
At the pre-implantation stage the majority of participants in all three groups considered the human embryo as "not a human being". Also, at the post-implantation stage of development, the majority of infertile couples and clinic staff considered the embryo as "not a human being" but, half the researchers (51%) considered the embryo in this stage as a "potential human". Half of the infertile couples considered the human fetus before ensoulment time (19th week of pregnancy according to the Shiite Islamic scholars) as "not-human being", while more than half of researchers (55.1%) considered it as a "potential human".
Ensoulment time is a major and important border for personhood. Most infertile couples and clinic staff consider the human embryo as "not a human being" but majority of all study participants considered the human fetus to be a complete human after ensoulment time.