Publications of Lilla Vicsek

Sándor J, Vicsek L, Bauer Z. The Human Embryo: Mapping Patients’ Ethical Decisions. Intersections. East European Journal of Society and Politics (Intersections.EEJSP). 2021;7(2):149-69.

The Human Embryo: Mapping Patients’ Ethical Decisions

When in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments first appeared in Hungarian legislation, the related experiences and the moral dilemmas of couples who go through these procedures were unknown. Couples have to make a great variety of decisions during the IVF process. In our study, we focus on the journey of the human embryo in IVF treatment through the ethical lenses of women. In order to explore the differences between established ethical and legal frameworks and the perspectives of women who have participated in an IVF procedure in Hungary, we conducted semi-structured interviews. In contrast to the static view of embryos typical to a part of the ethics literature, which also characterizes most established legal frameworks, patients’ view of embryos of interviewees was dynamic: they interpreted embryos in a malleable and constantly changing way. Embryos were perceived differently depending on time, place, and biological characteristics, and primarily in relation to how they could contribute to achieving the goals of treatment. In this article, we also demonstrate that the main ethical framework that the participants in our research evoked in relation to the IVF process was related to the ethics of medical treatment. At the end of the paper we also make an attempt to draw some conclusions that may help ameliorate problems with the current normative ethical and legal framework by incorporating the experiences of women who participate in IVF procedures.

Let Us Talk About Eggs! Professional Resistance to Elective Egg Vitrification and Gendered Medical Paternalism

In this paper, by applying a feminist bioethical perspective, we identify a new form of medical paternalism that still shapes contemporary legal policies on human egg cryopreservation performed without medical reasons. The fear of negligent, careless women who opt to delay their pregnancy for mere convenience is a widely known gender biased stereotype. Nevertheless, the opinions and judgments of medical professionals on this issue have not yet been sufficiently explored by in-depth research. In this essay, therefore, first we look at the broader bioethical, legal, and social aspects of human egg cryopreservation. In the second part of the paper we discuss a unique qualitative study conducted with professionals working at Hungarian IVF clinics. We argue, based on a bioethical analysis of the collected data, that when new reproduction technologies provide opportunities for women to widen their range of reproductive choices, the traditional forms of medical paternalism can be reinforced by gendered paternalism, as well. We identify several elements of gendered paternalism that characterized the attitudes of the IVF staff and discuss the professionals’ resistance to elective egg freezing and vitrification of eggs for the future. We conclude by suggesting directions for future policy. Although we focus on the Hungarian case in this paper, we are aware that similar attitudes can be observed in some other countries where this technology has become available and requested by women, but where they also face difficulties in their access to it.

Let us talk about eggs!: Professional resistance to elective egg vitrification and gendered medical paternalism

In this paper, by applying a feminist bioethical perspective, we identify a new form of medical paternalism that still shapes contemporary legal policies on human egg cryopreservation performed without medical reasons. The fear of negligent, careless women who opt to delay their pregnancy for mere convenience is a widely known gender biased stereotype. Nevertheless, the opinions and judgments of medical professionals on this issue have not yet been sufficiently explored by in-depth research. In this essay, therefore, first we look at the broader bioethical, legal, and social aspects of human egg cryopreservation. In the second part of the paper we discuss a unique qualitative study conducted with professionals working at Hungarian IVF clinics. We argue, based on a bioethical analysis of the collected data, that when new reproduction technologies provide opportunities for women to widen their range of reproductive choices, the traditional forms of medical paternalism can be reinforced by gendered paternalism, as well. We identify several elements of gendered paternalism that characterized the attitudes of the IVF staff and discuss the professionals’ resistance to elective egg freezing and vitrification of eggs for the future. We conclude by suggesting directions for future policy. Although we focus on the Hungarian case in this paper, we are aware that similar attitudes can be observed in some other countries where this technology has become available and requested by women, but where they also face difficulties in their access to it.