Reproductive medicine

Some 3,000 couples embark on an assisted reproductive treatment every year in Switzerland. Assisted reproductive techniques are evolving rapidly and raise complex ethical and legal questions.

In order to fulfil the desire to have a baby, medically assisted reproduction (assisted reproductive techniques) may be used. Assisted reproductive techniques describe methods of establishing a pregnancy without sexual intercourse.

The two most common procedures performed in Switzerland are artificial insemination and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) with subsequent transfer of the embryo to the uterus. With artificial insemination, sperm cells are inserted into the uterus using an instrument. With in vitro fertilisation, the egg is fertilised with a sperm cell outside of the woman’s body.

Reproductive medicine dates back to the late 19th century when artificial insemination was already performed on a regular basis. A turning point came in the UK in 1978 with the birth of Louise Brown – the world’s first child conceived in a laboratory. Reproductive medicine has since evolved rapidly and opened up many new possibilities.

The extended medical possibilities raise complex ethical and legal questions that frequently pose major challenges to legislators: who should have access to reproductive medicine? Should egg and embryo donation for fertility purposes be allowed? What genetic tests and therapeutic treatments should be allowed to be performed on an embryo in vitro?

The law in Switzerland

In Switzerland, reproductive medicine is regulated at constitutional and legislative level. Article 119 of the Federal Constitution governs reproductive medicine and gene technology involving humans. The Reproductive Medicine Act substantiates Article 119 of the Federal Constitution and sets out the conditions under which assisted reproductive techniques can be used. This Act sets out, among other things, who can access assisted reproductive techniques, what procedures are permitted and what information a child conceived through donor sperm can obtain about the sperm donor.

The Act and the corresponding Ordinance were partially revised in 2017. The focus of the revision was on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PID). You can find further information on this on the page Legislative projects regarding reproductive medicine.

As a result of the adoption of the ‘Marriage for all’ bill, married female couples will have access to sperm donation from 1 July 2022. This was previously reserved for heterosexual couples.

Enforcement of the legal regulations is in principle the responsibility of the cantons. They issue licenses, carry out inspections and put in place measures necessary to enforce the law.


Reproductive medicine legislation

The Federal Act of 18 December 1998 on Medically Assisted Reproduction lays down the conditions under which the methods of medically assisted reproduction may be used.

Further information

Reproductive Medicine: facts & figures

Who has recourse to reproductive medicine? How many and what types of procedures are carried out? How many embryos undergo genetic testing? A monitoring programme provides facts and figures on reproductive medicine.

Legislative projects

The Federal Office of Public Health is responsible for the legal work related to reproductive medicine.

Reproductive Medicine Act effectiveness review

The FOPH reviews the effectiveness of the Reproductive Medicine Act.

Parliamentary Motions

Since the Reproductive Medicine Act went into force in 2001, more than 30 parliamentary motions have been submitted on the topic.

Expert opinions and recommendations

Expert opinions and recommendations on the legal regulations governing reproductive medicine

Last modification 09.11.2023

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Division of Biomedicine
Biosafety, Human Genetics and Reproductive Medicine Section
Schwarzenburgstrasse 157
3003 Bern
Tel. +41 58 463 51 54

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