Social Freezing in Medical Practice. Experiences and Attitudes of Gynecologists in Germany

Science and Engineering Ethics 24 (5):1483-1492 (2018)
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Abstract

Surveys of the German public have revealed a high acceptance of social freezing, i.e. oocyte conservation without medical indication. Up to now, there are no investigations available on the experiences and attitudes of health professionals towards social freezing. Between August 2015 and January 2016, we surveyed gynecologists Germany-wide on the topic social freezing. Five gynecologists specialized in reproductive medicine and five office-based gynecologists in standard care were chosen for the survey. The survey was conducted with an explorative, qualitative research design. The demand for social freezing in Germany is low. With regard to their fertility age, most women attend consultations too late, they have only little previous knowledge and false expectations. The gynecologists consider it the duty of society and politics to provide for the compatibility of family and work. They relate late parenthood to disadvantages primarily for the children. A majority of the gynecologists interviewed tend to advise natural reproduction. Social freezing is often mistaken as a kind of fertility insurance. Thus, it is necessary that physicians inform women early about the possibilities and limitations of social freezing. In the first place, social freezing is not a medical or medical-ethical topic. Women consider the method as a possibility to ensure the compatibility of family and work. This compatibility should be mostly perceived as a political topic. It cannot be a medical task to solve this issue. In fact, a debate in society as a whole is necessary that includes all relevant actors.

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