Failures of reproduction: problematising ‘success’ in assisted reproductive technology

Nursing Inquiry 14 (2):125-131 (2007)
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This paper scrutinises the many ways in which ‘success’ is portrayed in representing assisted reproductive technology (ART) services and illuminates how these definitions differ from those held by participant couples. A qualitative approach informed by feminist perspectives guided this study and aimed to problematise the concept of ‘success’ by examining literature from ART clinics, government reports on ART, and by analysing narratives of couples who have accessed ART services. As many ART services have varying definitions of ‘success’ and as statistics are manipulated to promote further patronage of ART services, the likelihood of ‘success’ is often overstated. This paper is concerned with the effects this promotion has on the participants. We suggest that this very mobilisation of statistical success changes the ability of those who access ART services to make productive decisions about themselves inside these treatment regimes, as the basis for decision‐making is hidden by the way numbers, objectivity and clinical reasoning operate to maintain participation in the program. In such an operation, the powerful mix of hope and technology kept participants enrolled far longer than they originally planned. Moreover, how success rates are manipulated raises ethical issues for all involved: clients, counsellors, and nursing and medical professionals.



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