Acknowledging the plural Weberian rationalities in clinical embryology: When moral values, habits, and/or affection prevail beyond efficiency

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Abstract

This paper addresses the plural forms of reasoning used by clinical embryologists when deciding the fate of the human embryos they create and manipulate in the laboratory through assisted reproductive technologies (ART). Our analysis draws on empirical material from semi-directive interviews with 20 clinical embryologists working at public and private fertility units/clinics in Portugal. Within bureaucratic organizations based on a high level of functional specialization, embryologists display multiple perspectives about the criteria they use to evaluate and classify embryos’ quality, potential, and viability. Taxonomies, international guidelines, and statistical data are primarily used by embryologists to qualify the embryos, basing their action on instrumental rationality (efficient means and calculated ends recognized inductively). However, beyond technical-scientific facts and theories employed as intellectual tools for action, some of them also mobilize alternative ethical rationalities, specifically, value-rational action based on moral valuations and legitimate rules/ends. Affectual sub-rationality governed by emotions, affects, and feeling states (such as empathy with the beneficiaries), and traditional sub-rationality based on habits and routines (embryologists’ feelings gained by experience) intervene too. Therefore, Weber’s distinctive ideal types, namely his foundational four types of social action and rationality - but also combinations of them - are relevant for rethinking professional practices within ART, especially clinical embryology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-86
Number of pages86
JournalIntersections. East European Journal of Society and Politics (Intersections.EEJSP)
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • Weberian rationalities
  • Clinical embryology
  • Embryo assessment
  • Decision-making processes
  • Professional jurisdiction

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