Is Infertility a Disease?

Many infertile couples have struggled with the moral and ethical issues surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of infertility. Both physicians and patients have asked whether the treatment of infertility is considered ethically acceptable. If so, what types of treatment are ethically acceptable?

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Diseases are physical or mental conditions of an organism that result in deviations from normal species function. Any textbook dealing with human biology or physiology will discuss the seven organ systems of the human body. These include the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the musculoskeletal system, the digestive system, The urinary system, the neurologic system and the reproductive system. All seven systems are required for the normal functioning of the human. Since reproduction is one of these systems, any abnormality if the functioning of the reproductive system would constitute a disease.

Diseases of any of these organ systems can cause serious life-threatening conditions (heart attack, ovarian cancer ) or milder non-life threatening conditions such as infertility or gastroesophogeal reflux. Whether the conditions are mild or severe, they nonetheless constitute a disease process.

As a disease, both patients and physicians are ethically allowed to treat it. Infertility treatment may take the form of correction of the underlying disease process. For example, surgery to open a blocked tube . Alternatively, fertility treatment may simply facilitate the goal of the reproductive system which is to produce a child. Examples if this type of treatment include causing ovulation to occur with fertility medications , performing intrauterine inseminations , or in vitro fertilization.