The Catholic Church’s position on GIFT seems unclear. Can a Catholic couple having problems getting pregnant start the GIFT procedure?

Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT) is a technique of intracorporeal artificial fertilization that involves the simultaneous but separate transfer of the male and female gametes into the fallopian tube. This technique is the recommended treatment for some forms of female infertility or male infertility, provided that the woman has at least one pervious tube. Following induction of ovulation and egg cell procurement by means of laparoscopy and procurement of sperm from within the vagina or by means of a perforated condom, the gametes, separated by an air bubble, are transferred into the fallopian tube by means of a small catheter. In this case fertilization occurs only when the egg cells and spermatozoa come in contact with each other inside the fallopian tube. Unfortunately, only 20 to 27% of the total number of gamete transfers result in completed pregnancies, due to a high incidence of miscarriage.

The instruction Donum Vitae makes no pronouncement with regard to GIFT, either implicitly or explicitly. However, the instruction does not proscribe “those cases in which the technical means is not a substitute for the conjugal act but serves to facilitate and to help so that the act attains its natural purpose”. Therefore, the CDF instruction confirms a traditional position of the Catholic Magisterium that acknowledges the physical and spiritual unity of the conjugal act as the indispensable moral requisite for generating to a new individual. In light of this tradition the intention of treating infertility does not justify any method and any process whatsoever in order to achieve conception.

From the Catholic moral standpoint the ethical dilemma associated with GIFT revolves around the question whether the intervention of the physician or the technician should be considered an assisting act of or a substantive one for the natural marital act. The facts that few oocytes are needed, that they are introduced into the fallopian tube after a short interval of time together with the spermatozoa obtained during or immediately after a conjugal act and that fertilization is inter-corporeal without any embryo manipulation reasonably classify that technique as a form of assistance and not a substitute for the conjugal act. In that case, the GIFT technique is morally acceptable.

However, not all Catholic ethicists agree with this interpretation: some consider that reproductive technology as a substitute for the conjugal act that, like the homologous and heterologous in vitro fertilization, is morally unacceptable.
1 Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF), Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation (Donum Vitae). February 22, 1987. Accessed on December 1, 2013

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn 2270-1.

3 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 2009: n 49.

4 Nelson KE, Hexem KR, Fudtner C. Inpatient Hospital Care of Children with Trisomy 13 and Trisomy 18 in the United States, Pediatrics, 2012:129(5):869-76. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-    2139. Epub 2012 Apr 9. (Accessed on August 9, 2013).

5 Janvier A, Farlow B., Wilfond B, The Experience of Families with Children
with Trisomy 13 and 18 in Social Networks Pediatrics 2012 Aug;130(2):293-8. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-0151. Epub 2012 Jul 23. (Accessed on August 12, 2013).

6 Koogler TK, Wilfond BS, Friedman Ross L. Lethal Language, Lethal Decisions Hasting Center Report. 2003:33, 37-41.

7 CDF, Donum Vitae, 1987: II, n.6.

8 May W.E, Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division: Huntinghton, IN: 2008, 93-94.