The ethics of offering fertility preservation to pediatric patients: A case-based discussion of barriers for clinicians to consider

Semin Pediatr Surg. 2021 Oct;30(5):151095. doi: 10.1016/j.sempedsurg.2021.151095. Epub 2021 Sep 4.


Decisions about fertility preservation can be difficult in general but the recent application of preservation techniques to pediatric patients has ushered in a host of new ethical considerations. Fertility preservation (FP) may be considered for all patients who are at risk for infertility due to their medical diagnosis or treatment, including those undergoing gonadotoxic chemotherapy, those with differences of sex development (DSD) undergoing gonadectomy,1-3 and transgender patients undergoing gender affirming surgery. The focus of this paper is to review the ethical issues involved in offering FP to pediatric oncology patients and, to a lesser extent, the new ethical issues that apply to patients with DSD. Some of the techniques and approach to counseling will also apply to transgender individuals, although that is beyond the scope of this work. We aim to discuss several barriers to offering FP and to advise how to counsel families in the setting of rapid changes in this field. Families should be educated about:Specific guidance for clinicians regarding some of these points was recently published in an American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report,1 and we will illustrate the use of these guidelines in four case presentations.

Keywords: Assent; Differences of sex development; Fertility preservation.