Ethics define the moral principles that govern behavior and activities in a profession. Laws are a system of rules recognized by a state, enforceable by sanctions if breached. While Laws vary with states, ethics are relatively constant within the trade. WHO defines equity as the absence of correctable disparities among people; regardless of gender, age, locality and socioeconomic status (WHO). Assisted reproductive techniques (ART) have restored the hope of perpetuation for many infertile couples. Its adoption is a strategy for correcting the remediable differences amongst people- infertility. The controversies regarding fundamental human rights to life, choice, parenthood, and family that arise due to Assisted Reproductive techniques are attributable to conflicts in laws-local and international.
The Assisted Reproductive Health Act assented in 2004 is enforced by Health Canada. The act affirms the informed consent, accessibility, safety, availability and inexpensiveness of ART. It promotes the preservation of the human genome and precludes stigma towards mothers and children borne of ART (Health Canada). The Act precludes rewards to influence the decision of the person. Even so, cases arise where gestational surrogate mothers refuse to give up the child because they are too emotionally attached. Here, the act provides for a duration during which the birth mother may void the contract; in the child’s best interests. This opens voids like the reasonable amount of time to void the contract, the child’s natural mother and the threshold for the child’s best interests.The case of Anna Johnson versus Mark Calvert expounds on this puzzle. For where Anna’s motherhood is adduced by parturition; Crispina’s motherhood is fostered by genetic association. The law provided for one “natural mother,” and thus Crispina was awarded the motherhood (Supreme Court of California). Here, the absence of clear guidelines is seen. Could the claim of motherhood be an infringement of the surrogate’s rights? And is the payment of surrogates taking advantage of women of low socioeconomic status?
The right to life and family is upheld by strategic International Laws. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 in Articles 3, 12 and 16 affirm this (Hrweb.org). Similar rights are guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Article 17 (Ohchr.org). The American Convention of Human Rights (1969) accords men and women equal rights of making decisions as pertains to family life. International laws do not give clear guidance on controversies that arise on human rights. Do embryos have right to recognition as persons before the law? Constitutions protect reproductive liberty. Even so, ART exposes conflicts where cryopreserved embryos lie at the heart of opposing rights to procreate and not to procreate.
The proposed research will involve primary and secondary data collection. A convenience sample will be obtained from the judicial courts and legal departments in hospitals. The selected persons shall then be encouraged to bring other affected people on board, the snowball sample. The inclusion criteria include the previous incidence of surrogacy suits within the last year, voluntary and informed consent by the participant and resident of the target locality. The exclusion criteria include denied consent, an ongoing judicial process, and non-residency. Secondary review of case laws and precedence will be conducted to assess how the existing legal frameworks affected the judicial process. The data obtained will then be analyzed, and inferences are drawn. Information obtained will then be presented to stakeholders including rights groups, government, and the public.
These methods aim to confirm the validity of the following hypotheses
H1: Ethics-law dilemmas contribute to most litigation in Ottawa.
H2: The incidence of medico-legal litigations is related to the absence of clear legal frameworks on assisted reproductive techniques.
I am interested in uncertainties in international and national laws with a specific prejudice towards how human rights are infringed by health policies in assisted reproductive techniques (ART).This intent is anchored on the realization that the absence of clear legal frameworks accounts for most legal disputes involving reproduction. Here, I briefly outline my research background, competencies and specific research interests.
Studying laws at Middlesex University, London, taught me research skills not limited to literature review, data collection, presentation, analysis and deduction of inference. I am a team player able to research with minimal supervision; characteristics fostered by the vast array of voluntary service at the American Red Cross and juvenile detention centers. Work as a legal advisor enabled me to unearth the absence of clear legal guidelines addressing the inequity and human rights infringement, locally and internationally, rife in assisted reproductive techniques.
The role of laws in bridging the inequity in matters infertility is seldom researcheddue to the stigma and ethical quandary associated with reproduction. The status quo is worsened by the relative absence of clear legal frameworks to address the medico-legal issues surrounding assisted reproductive techniques.
The University of Ottawa offers training in aboriginal, common law and civil law. Indeed, health care is a blend of the trijuridical legal system. For one, access to health is a human right- common law. On the other hand provision of health care bestows duty of care, an offer, its acceptance coupled with intent and a consideration enforceable by law- civil law.The institution equips learners with knowledge relevant in policy formulation, social advocacy, and movement. Equipped with these skills, I will be able to establish a clear framework for advocacy against inequity in ART- the embodiment of the role of law in social justice.
The absence of concise legal frameworks threatens to draw back the milestones achieved towards using ART in bridging inequity in the society. Further research into the existing legal frameworks and their impact on ART will help in building knowledge to be used in social advocacy and policy-making.
Health Canada, HC. Assisted Human Reproduction. n.d. 21 February 2019 <https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/biologics-radiopharmaceuticals-genetic-therapies/legislation-guidelines/assisted-human-reproduction.html>.
Hrweb.org. Universal Declaration of Human Right.UDHR. 27 January 1997. 22 February 2019 <http://www.hrweb.org/legal/udhr.html>.
Ohchr.org. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 16 December 1966. 16 February 2019 <www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx>.
Supreme Court of California, SCC. Johnson vs. Calvert. n.d. 21 February 2019 <https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=112980646483731250&q=assisted+reproduction&hl=en&as_sdt=2006>.
WHO. Health Systems. n.d. 21 February 2019 <https://www.who.int/healthsystems/topics/equity/en/>.
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