This concept remains deliberately ambiguous, for the purpose of encompassing innovative methods yet to come, but it is precisely this ambiguity that has important socio-economic consequences, such as allowing relative coverage by the National Health Service.
Article 2 then iterates that the State shall promote 'research into the pathological, psychological, environmental and social causes of the phenomena of sterility and infertility and promote the necessary measures to remove them as well as to reduce their incidence', but with respect for 'all those involved, including the unborn child'.
Assisted reproduction techniques can be accessed by 'couples of different sexes, married or living together, of potentially fertile age, and both living'.
The use of heterologous fertilisation techniques is permitted.
Eugenics is forbidden.
Article 14 prohibits the cryopreservation of embryos in order to reduce the excess numberof embryos created during assisted reproduction.
Cryopreservation is, however, permitted for temporary and documented unforeseeable circumstances which occur at the moment of fertilisation.
On 1st April 2009, paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 14 were declared partially unlawful by Constitutional Court ruling 151.
In particular, paragraph 2 was declared unlawful insofar as it foresees a limit on the production of embryos of 'not more than three', and where it provides for the obligation of 'a single and simultaneous implantation'.
Paragraph 3, which foresees the possibility of cryopreserving embryos 'where transfer of the embryos to the uterus is not possible due to a serious and documented case of force majeure relating to the woman's state of health which was unforeseeable at the time of fertilisation', was declared unlawful insofar as it does not provide that the transfer of those embryos, 'to be carried out as soon as possible', must also be done without prejudice to the woman's health.
Prior to Constitutional Court Ruling No. 151/09 of 1st April 2009, the Lazio Regional Administrative Court, in Ruling No. 398/08 (in which the questions of legitimacy were raised and then upheld by the Constitutional Court) also declared as illegitimate the prohibition of pre-implantation diagnosis laid down in the Ministerial Guidelines (adopted by Ministerial Decree of 21st July 2004) unless the technique was experimental or had a specific eugenic purpose (in the sense that the technique was aimed at racial selection).