Freezing embryos and FIV: an ethical approach

Added ethical difficulty, the damage inflicted on the embryo, which will be subjected to various freezing/thawing processes, resulting in many of them having to be discarded in the proces….


In its July 2014 edition, the journal Fertility and Sterility published three studies that analysed the different circumstances that affect the complicated process of obtaining embryos and their use in in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycles.

They analysed the ovarian stimulation procedures used to obtain oocytes for subsequent fertilisation in the laboratory, and the advantage of transferring the embryos obtained in the same cycle in which they were obtained, or freezing embryos them by different methods and transferring them in subsequent cycles.

In view of the findings of these studies, it seems that the likelihood of success for achieving a pregnancy varies according to whether one or other method is used. The neonate’s health can also be affected by the IVF method selected, all factors that pose not only a clinical, but also an ethical dilemma.

Ovarian stimulation

The first step in the IVF process consists of obtaining oocytes, either from the future mother or from a donor, for subsequent fertilisation in the laboratory.

The need to work with several of these to increase the probability of success in the assisted fertilisation process requires stimulation of multiple ovulation in the woman, by administering drugs such as clomiphene. These treatments not only cause the proliferation of several ovarian follicles, in which many oocytes will mature (the objective pursued), but they will activate a series of changes that will influence the subsequent implantation process, compromising its success.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.