Social Freezing

Putting childbearing on ice - Expert study

«Social freezing» refers to the practice of harvesting and freezing a woman’s eggs (cryopreservation) so they can be used for a pregnancy later in life. Thus, women who do not suffer from any underlying infertility problems are making use of reproductive medicine solely for the purpose of postponing the start of a family – either for career reasons or because they have not yet found the right partner, for example. Mature eggs from the woman’s ovaries are extracted, frozen and stored. Years later the frozen eggs can be thawed and then fertilised in vitro. This technology promises to free women from the dictates of their biological clock, but it also raises questions about medical risks, child welfare and society's efforts to make career and family compatible.

This interdisciplinary study evaluates the risks and rewards of social freezing. It examines how many women in Switzerland avail themselves of social freezing, how great the future potential of this technology is and what changes it would bring about as compared to today. It addresses the points that should be covered in a medical consultation regarding egg harvesting and subsequent in vitro fertilisation and embryo implantation, as well as the legal, ethical, social and medical standards that should apply to the fertilisation of human eggs and implantation of human embryos.

It concludes with an overall evaluation. Based on this, recommendations directed at decision-makers, in particular politicians, are formulated accordingly.

Organisation

Project duration
June 2017 to approximately November 2018

Project mandataries

Head:

  • Prof. Dr. Andreas Balthasar, Interface Politikstudien Forschung Beratung

Project group

  • Prof. Dr. Regina E. Aebi-Müller, Professorin für Privatrecht und Privatrechtsvergleichung, Universität Luzern
  • Prof. Dr. Christian Kind, Titularprofessor für Pädiatrie, Universität Zürich
  • Franziska Müller, DAS Evaluation
  • Sarah Fässler, Interface Politikstudien Forschung Beratung

Supervisory group

  • Prof. Dr. Alberto Bondolfi, Université de Genève, comitato di direzione TA-SWISS – presidente del gruppo d'accompagnamento
  • Prof. Dr. med. Bruno Imthurn, Klinik für Reproduktions-Endokrinologie, UniversitätsSpital Zürich
  • Prof. Dr. med. Urs Scherrer, Kardiologe, Inselspital Bern
  • Prof. Dr. med. Giatgen A. Spinas, Universitätsspital Zürich, Mitglied des Leitungsausschusses von TA-SWISS
  • Prof. Dr. Frank Mathwig, Ethiker, Universität Bern
  • Dr. Nadja Eggert, Ethos - Plateforme interdisciplinaire d'éthique, Université de Lausanne
  • Dr. Nolwenn Bühler, Anthropologue, Interface Sciences-Société, Université de Lausanne
  • Dr. Matthias Bürgin, Juristischen Fakultät der Universität Basel & Bundesamt für Gesundheit BAG
  • Prof. Dr. Urs Brügger, Institutsleiter Winterthurer Institut für Gesundheitsökonomie, ZHAW School of Management and Law
  • Dr. Fridolin Marty, Leiter Gesundheitspolitik, economiesuisse
  • Dr. Heidi Simoni, Leitung Marie Meierhofer Institut für das Kind (MMI)
  • Ulrike Baureithel, freie Journalistin mit Schwerpunkt Gesundheits- und Sozialpolitik, Biopolitik und Geschichte

Project management TA-SWISS

  • Dr. Christina Tobler,TA-SWISS (E-Mail)

The project in brief

Social freezing allows women to extend the period of their fertility by having their mature egg cells harvested and preserved for later use. This technology makes pregnancies possible even when the mother is at an advanced age. Women can thus bear their own biological children even after menopause.

The TA-SWISS study addresses the current capabilities, future potential and possible consequences of social freezing.