Invisible Vulnerabilities: Ethical, Practical and Methodological Dilemmas in Conducting Qualitative Research on the Interaction with IVF Embryos

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Abstract

The burden of deciding the fate of the supernumerary human embryo created in vitro in the context of Assisted Reproductive Technologies rests on the beneficiary couples or individuals who conceived the parental project. The beneficiaries must also take on the responsibility of choosing whether to donate surplus embryos either to others or to scientific research, or to request their
destruction. Vulnerable beings, weakened from the point of view of their identity (facing the social stigma still associated with some circumstances such as being infertile, lesbian or a single mother), are required to have skills such as reflexivity and autonomy in dramatic situations that concern their relationship with their own reproductive body. Given the urgency of this issue at the socio-anthropological level, we are conducting ethnographic research aimed at analysing how specialists and lay people objectivate, evaluate and circulate dierent conceptions of the human embryo in vitro. Based on our research experience within this ongoing project, we intend to discuss some ethical, practical and methodological concerns for the researcher in accessing the field and conducting fieldwork. We take into account the fact that this research is focused on sensitive topics and on individuals who can be considered people in vulnerable situations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalSocieties
Volume10
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2019

Keywords

  • human embryo in vitro
  • infertility
  • vulnerability

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