Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has provided both opportunities and crises for people to achieve pregnancy and reproduction by artificial or partially artificial means. As Chinese people have been shaped by Confucian family values, they are committed to pursuing the continuity, integrity, and prosperity of the family. Applying ART is not unethical in principle. However, different types of ART carry different ethical implications and should be defined clearly according to the Confucian moral perspective.
Confucian ethics is committed to maintaining the continuity of the family. For infertile couples, both artificial insemination (AI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be beneficial and justifiable, as long as the sperms and eggs involved are only from the husband and wife. However, according to the Confucian understanding of the integrity of the family, an AI or IVF by donor, rather than the husband, would destroy the blood-tie of the family, and is therefore ethically unjustifiable. In addition, Confucianism appreciates that a normal family must have both a husband and a wife, and that a child ought to be born in a normal family with both a father and a mother. Accordingly, it is ethically problematic for single men or women to use ART to conceive a child. Moreover, it is very difficult for Confucians to defend the practice of surrogate motherhood because the intrusion of another woman into a family would significantly threaten the peace and integrity of the family and be harmful to the development of the child.
This paper does not intend to argue that all traditional Confucian ethical views are absolutely right and should never be changed. It does, however, argue that Confucian moral values and commitments should be taken seriously. These values and commitments are still vibrant in Chinese people’s lives, although they have not been promoted systematically in national politics. As they are embedded in the Chinese ways of life, Chinese bioethicists should carefully examine these views and provide relevant arguments for their preferred programs and solutions regarding the application of reproductive technologies.