Publication Details

Carter, D., Watt, A. M., Braunack-Mayer, A. J., Elshaug, A., Moss, J. R. & Hiller, J. E. (2013). Should there be a female age limit on public funding for Assisted Reproductive Technology? Differing conceptions of justice in resource allocation. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 10 (1), 79-91.


Should there be a female age limit on public funding for assisted reproductive technology (ART)? The question bears significant economic and sociopolitical implications and has been contentious in many countries. We conceptualise the question as one of justice in resource allocation, using three much-debated substantive principles of justice—the capacity to benefit, personal responsibility, and need—to structure and then explore a complex of arguments. Capacity-to-benefit arguments are not decisive: There are no clear cost-effectiveness grounds to restrict funding to those older women who still bear some capacity to benefit from ART. Personal responsibility arguments are challenged by structural determinants of delayed motherhood. Nor are need arguments decisive: They can speak either for or against a female age limit, depending on the conception of need used. We demonstrate how these principles can differ not only in content but also in the relative importance they are accorded by governments. Wide variation in ART public funding policy might be better understood in this light. We conclude with some inter-country comparison. New Zealand and Swedish policies are uncommonly transparent and thus demonstrate particularly well how the arguments we explore have been put into practice.



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