Bioethics News

What should we do with frozen embryos?

As the number of unused frozen embryos in the US burgeons, policy analysts are questioning how authorities should deal with the hundreds of thousands that have been abandoned or have a disputed legal status.  

Even the New York Times have jumped on the issue, publishing a front-page story on the uncertain fate of frozen embryos in America.   

“…In storage facilities across the nation, hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos — perhaps a million — are preserved in silver tanks of liquid nitrogen. Some are in storage for cancer patients trying to preserve their chance to have a family after chemotherapy destroys their fertility. But most are leftovers from the booming assisted reproduction industry, belonging to couples like the Wattses [a couple that used IVF], who could not conceive naturally…”

The article discusses cases like that of Nick Loeb and his ex-fiance Sofia Vergara, currently in a bitter legal dispute over frozen embryos they created.

“Some cases have landed in court, where there is little guidance or precedent for judges struggling with this new territory, and so far, little consistency in their rulings…”

This appears to be one of the predominating concerns about IVF in the US – a lack of regulation in legal jurisdictions across the country.

In a blog post on the Times lead article, author KJ Dell’Antonia cautioned against a tendency to ‘ignore’ embryos that haven’t been needed by parents.

“When it comes to unused embryos, loving and supporting those who become children is the easy part, and the happy personal stories almost a distraction from the harder questions about the embryos that are not donated, are abandoned or become the subject of litigation, as well as decisions about how embryos can be created or change hands.

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.