Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Carolyn McLeod



The use of third-party gametes in reproductive procedures has raised ethical questions about what responsibilities, if any, the providers of these gametes have towards the children they help to create. Much of this debate has focused on the conditions under which individuals acquire parental responsibilities, and the manner in which these responsibilities can be ethically discharged. Rather than taking parenthood as a starting point, however I focus on the conditions under which care-taking responsibilities arise more generally. I defend the thesis that gamete providers acquire substantial inalienable care-taking responsibilities towards their biological offspring, but that these responsibilities do not amount to parental responsibilities.

In the first chapter, I argue that because gamete providers freely and intentionally act to bring about the existence of children, they have care-taking responsibilities for the offspring that result from their gametes. In the second chapter I draw a distinction between the transfer and delegation of responsibilities, and argue that gamete providers can only delegate their care-taking responsibilities. In the third chapter I argue that the care-taking responsibilities gamete providers have do not amount to parental responsibilities, and that gamete providers are merely responsible for ensuring that their biological offspring have a reasonable chance at a desirable life. In the fourth chapter I apply the threshold established in the preceding chapter to highlight specific duties possessed by gamete providers. I argue that if gamete recipients cannot care for a gamete provider’s biological offspring and no one else is able to, then gamete providers have a special responsibility to provide financial or parenting assistance, depending on what would best serve the child’s interests. A consequence of this view is that the state could reasonably require certain kinds of limited child support from gamete providers.