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Bioethics Today Series: Changing norms surrounding fatherhood and the importance of testicular tissue cryopreservation

We're delighted to continue our series highlighting reproductive medicine blog posts written by Lisa Campo-Engelstein, PhD, from the Alden March Bioethics Institute at Albany Medical College for BIOETHICS TODAY.  Dr. Campo-Engelstein's main research areas include reproductive ethics (particularly contraception, oncofertility, birth, and embry and parthenote research), gender and medicine, cancer ethics, and international bioethics (especially Costa Rica).  

BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision mak

ing, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.

Changing norms surrounding fatherhood and the importance of testicular tissue cryopreservation

Author: Lisa Campo-Engelstein, PhD

BIOETHICS TODAY, September 17, 2013

Testicular tissue cryopreservation is a neglected topic in the fields of fertility preservation and bioethics not only because reproduction is usually associated with women and girls, but also because sperm banking is an established, easy, and cheap method that works for the majority of male cancer patients.  However, norms surrounding fatherhood are changing, with more men interested in active fatherhood, and consequently fertility preservation becoming and will continue to become increasingly important to male cancer patietns. 

When compared to the number of studies demonstrating the importance of fertility to female cancer patients, the literature focusing on male cancer patients' perspectives on fertility is minimal.  However, there are more researchers examining the latter topic today than in the past.  Contemporary research on gendered perspectives on fertility preservation reveals a shift over time: although older studies generally found that female cancer patients value their fertility more (and in some cases significantly more) than male cancer patients, some newer research suggests that men value their fertility to equal degrees as women.  For example, a 2009 study by Schover concluded that men experience similar levels of long-term distress over their impaired fertility as a result of cancer treatments.  Likewise, research by crawshaw and Sloper (2010) showed that, regardless of gender, fertility concerns affected identity, well-being, and life planning.  Other studies also did not observe gender-related differences in the distress about fertility or the desire to have children (Schover et al. 1999; Zebrack et al. 2004).

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