This paper discusses the notion of using international shipping legislation to provide healthcare technologies to inhabitants of a country on a ship in international waters based just outside the country’s border. This allows technologies that would otherwise be unavailable, regulated or banned to the citizens of a particular nation to be available, just offshore. This is because in international waters ships are governed by the laws of their home nation not those they are nearby. We focus on the example suggested recently in the UK of “sperm ships”, flying Danish flags to circumvent IVF regulation in the UK. While we acknowledge that this general strategy could be used to do good by providing healthcare where it would not be otherwise available, it also provides a significant challenge to the effective sovereignty of the state and its ability to regulate healthcare technologies for the benefit of its citizens. We discuss this challenge to the regulation of healthcare and suggest a few tentative solutions.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
↵i We are using “sperm ships” as a generic term for all uses of this international legislation to either provide medical care or to engage in medical/biotech research in international waters, rather than just as a means of providing reproductive technology.
↵ii Pennings defends this sort of position in “Reproductive tourism as moral pluralism in motion”,7 however in the face of high risk technologies and to some degree the technologies that we think are morally obnoxious, this position seems untenable.
↵iii There may be reasons to doubt this—for example, see the debate about cosmopolitanism versus nationalism.15
↵iv The amount varies from country to country, it is typically 12 miles, although some countries have claimed either more or less than this.19
Competing interests: None.
Read the full text or download the PDF:
Other content recommended for you
- ETHICS BRIEFINGS
- Differences between sperm sharing and egg sharing are morally relevant
- The ethical case for non-directed postmortem sperm donation
- Ethics briefings
- Number of sperm donors rises despite removal of anonymity in UK
- Ethics briefings
- More than 100 sperm and egg donors prove ready to reveal identity to offspring
- Assisted conception and the law in the United Kingdom
- Postmortem non-directed sperm donation: quality matters
- HFEA investigates websites matching sperm donors to would be mothers