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Arguments on thin ice: on non-medical egg freezing and individualisation arguments
  1. Thomas Søbirk Petersen
  1. Communication and Arts, Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas Søbirk Petersen, Communication and Arts, Roskilde University, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark; thomassp{at}


The aim of this article is to provide a systematic reconstruction and critique of what is taken to be a central ethical concern against the use of non-medical egg freezing (NMEF). The concern can be captured in what we can call the individualisation argument. The argument states, very roughly, that women should not use NMEF as it is an individualistic and morally problematic solution to the social problems that women face, for instance, in the labour market. Instead of allowing or expecting women to deal with them on an individual level, we should address them by challenging the patriarchal structures of the labour market—for example, by securing equal pay, or paid maternal leave, or ‘paid paternal [partner] leave and sick leave and affordable child care’. It will be made clear that there are several versions of this argument. The author will try to elaborate this claim, and it will be explained that the differences depend on the way in which bioethicists believe that individuals use of NMEF is morally problematic, compared with the alternative of securing social change for women in, say, the labour market. Finally, a critical discussion of three versions of the individualisation argument will follow, and it will be shown why all versions are on rather thin ice, or in other words, that they are implausible.

  • cryobanking of sperm, ova or embryos
  • ethics
  • reproductive medicine
  • social aspects
  • women

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  • Funding The article is financed by the Danish Council for Independent Research—grant number: 7013-00042. Name of project: Ice Age: Entangled Lives, Times and Ethics in Fertility Preservation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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