Although treating infertility is undoubtedly a medical benefit in many cases, there are women who for physical or psychological reasons should not carry a pregnancy. For these woman, pregnancy becomes a threat to their own health and subjects the fetus to great risk of permanent injury or death. Fertility technology itself becomes a risk when it increases the probability of multiple births. Most fertility specialists are conscientious in counseling their patients about the risks and limitations of fertility treatment, but these physicians are reticent to deny a woman treatment if she is willing to assume the risks of the treatment.
The legal problems arise because a woman does not have an unfettered right to waive her injured baby’s cause of action against the physician. The informed consent to fertility treatment must be complete and specific. Just reciting the risks is insufficient. The consequences of risks such as multiple births must be described in detail. Telling a woman that her baby may be premature does not give her the necessary information that a frequent complication of severe prematurity is brain damage. Although it may be improper to deny women the right to risk their lives and the health of their potential offspring for the sake of becoming pregnant, they must be told exactly what risks they are assuming.