Chinese traditional Confucian ethics recognizes the fundamental importance of the family. Appropriate blood-tie relationships have become a major concern in Chinese marriages and family life. As the Confucian ethical tradition has been established for thousands of years, the core values and meanings of Confucian family ethics are implicit in Chinese life and embodied in everyday activities. The family has been taken as a foundation of the state, and family regulation has been taken as an indispensable element in the Confucian societal ideal of “personal cultivation, family regulation, state governance, and the whole world made peaceful.”
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has benefitted Chinese families who have difficulty conceiving naturally. However, it also poses severe challenges to the traditional model of marriage and family relations according to Confucian ethics. The first challenge is that ART causes a separation between reproduction and marriage – gametes from a person outside of the marriage could be used to procreate children, which presents the grave risk of changing the blood-tie-based structure of the family. We must also face the second challenge posed by ART, which is that the application of such technology may inflict harm to the child thus conceived. There have already been Chinese cases involving disputes over who should be considered the legitimate parents of the children conceived through ART. Such cases are enormously controversial and the children are put into quite vulnerable situations.
From the perspective of traditional Confucian ethics, Chinese society should be very cautious in applying ART. We should recognize that the problems of infertility involve complicated psychological and social factors that cannot entirely be solved by using advance technology. Moreover, necessary laws and regulations should be formulated according to proper Chinese ethical views that reflect traditional Confucian family ethics. It would be helpful to set up hospital ethics committees to provide consultancy and advice in difficult cases. In short, it is essential to understand the ethical problems involved in the application of ART and to promote a positive interaction and coordination of reproductive technology and Chinese bioethics.