Medical anthropologist, Dr Marcia Inhorn, told the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology that legal adoption was not allowed in Middle Eastern Muslim countries, although children were loved and valued. As a result, IVF remained many couples' last hope of having children, and IVF centres have opened in nearly 20 nations in the Muslim Middle East, ranging from small, oil-rich Bahrain and Qatar to larger but less prosperous Morocco and Egypt.
However, Dr Inhorn, from the University of Michigan, US, told the conference that local and religious differences are affecting the way IVF is implemented in these countries. She has identified major differences in cultural attitudes toward reproductive technologies between Shi'ite Muslims in Lebanon and Sunni Muslims in Egypt. The uptake of IVF has been profoundly influenced by Islamic fatwa declarations.
Dr Inhorn, who spent many years studying social and cultural aspects of infertility in Egypt and is now working on a male infertility study in Lebanon, said that a number of Sunni Islamic fatwas, issued as early as 1980 from Egypt's famed Al-Azhar University, suggest that IVF and similar therapies are permissible so long as they do not involve any form of third-party donation of either sperm, eggs, embryos, or uteruses. "The reasoning goes that since marriage is a contract between husband and wife, no third party should intrude into the marital functions of sex and procreation. A third party donor whether providing sperm, eggs, embryos, or a uterus would be considered tantamount to zina, or adultery," explained Dr Inhorn.
Artificial insemination or IVF with the husband's own sem
Contact: Emma Mason
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology