'False hope' in assisted reproduction: the normative significance of the external outlook and moral negotiation

J Med Ethics. 2023 May 3:jme-2023-108916. doi: 10.1136/jme-2023-108916. Online ahead of print.


Despite the frequent invocation of 'false hope' and possible related moral concerns in the context of assisted reproduction technologies, a focused ethical and conceptual problematisation of this concept seems to be lacking. We argue that an invocation of 'false hope' only makes sense if the fulfilment of a desired outcome (eg, a successful fertility treatment) is impossible, and if it is attributed from an external perspective. The evaluation incurred by this third party may foreclose a given perspective from being an object of hope. However, this evaluation is not a mere statistical calculation or observation based on probabilities but is dependent on several factors that should be acknowledgeable as morally relevant. This is important because it allows room for, and encourages, reasoned disagreement and moral negotiation. Accordingly, the object of hope itself, whether or not based on socially embedded desires or practices, can be a topic of debate.

Keywords: ethics- medical; reproductive medicine.