PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


The discourse of medical science in the WEB
The narrative of assisted reproduction technologies (ARTs)

lucia martinelli  

Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) are an excellent laboratory for analyzing crucial aspects of women's and men's lives in a controversial interaction between technology and society, which involves bio-ethics, bio-policy, bio-economy, and bio-law. We are focusing on new arenas and different narratives used by various actors (medical professionals, patients, aspirant parents, gamete/embryo donors, surrogate mothers, etc..) involved in ARTs. Internet-based social networking sites are very popular tools for ARTs (actual and perspective) patients to share advices and experiences, for health professionals to provide information, and for private clinics to recruit patients. 'Timing' and 'aging' are particularly stressed in medical narrative. Among ARTs, autologous human oocyte cryopreservation to store women's eggs to be used later by the same donor for therapeutic or elective reasons (this latter known as social freezing) has been raising debates in social media after, in 2014, Facebook and Apple announced they would support egg-freezing for non-medical reasons for their female employees to better conciliate motherhood and careers. In general, egg preservation founds different endorsement if motivated by either 'medical' or 'personal' reason: the first as 'the only option' (thus meriting help) and the second as 'a life-style choice' (thus deserving skepticism or dissent). In advertisement strategies used by private clinics trying to attract perspective patients, narrative recurrently refers to 'aging', of both women and eggs ("stop the biological clock!"), as well as to a status quo which requires women to 'be ready' for something/somebody (as in the case of "women without a secure relationship", waiting for "Mr. Right"). Through the websites, frozen oocytes become polemic bio-objects which enable us to analyze the scientific discourse on ARTs. This study was funded by the Autonomous Province of Trento - Equal Opportunities and Work-life Conciliation Bureau, project "Towards a new 'family sayings': opportunities, responsibilities and rights in assisted reproduction technologies".

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.