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The physician as an accessory in the parental project of HIV positive people
  1. Guido Pennings
  1. Correspondence to:
 Guido Pennings
 PhD, Free University Brussels, Department of Philosophy, Pleinlaan 2, room 5 C 442, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium;


The question of the moral acceptability of infertility treatment to HIV positive persons raises a number of interesting ethical points regarding the responsibility of the infertility specialist for the outcome of his or her actions. The analysis of the physician’s responsibility is conducted within the framework of accomplice liability. The physician is a collaborator in the parental project of the principals—that is, the intentional parents. Both causal contribution and intention are considered as elements of complicity. It is concluded that a two per cent risk of vertical transmission when the woman is HIV positive is insufficient to blame the infertility specialist who helps her to conceive. Helping an infertile HIV positive infertile couple to have a child does not constitute reckless behaviour. When the couple is fertile, infertility treatment is directed at risk reduction and falls under the physician’s obligation to act in the best interests of his patients.

  • HIV positive people
  • infertility treatment
  • physician responsibility

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  • Research for this article was made possible by grant G.0065.00 from the Fund for Scientific Research, Flanders, Belgium.

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