The Debate Over Unused Embryos

Filed under: Opinions


It's a question most of us will never have to ask. In fact, it's a question that sounds rather sci-fi more than real life, and yet it is one a growing number of parents must ask themselves. What to do with unused embryos? More and more couples are turning to in vitro fertilization, also known as IVF, in order to conceive children. A number of eggs are implanted with sperm in the hopes that one or more will take and children will be produced. The embryos not used for the current procedure are frozen in case they are needed for subsequent attempts, or, to conceive more children. Many couples don't use those remaining embryos and don't know what to do with them.

They could dispose of them, donate them to research or other couples trying to conceive, or keep them frozen for an annual fee. Unused embryos can be stored for up to ten years. Ethics, clearly, play a huge role in the decision. Some couples don't want others raising what would ostensibly be their children, or are afraid their children will encounter a sibling without knowing it which could lead to problems down the road (especially if they decided to date). There's also the reality that it's becoming harder and harder for parents to donate embryos to other couples.

Others simply can't bear to part with what they see as their unborn children. Possible options are to create fewer embryos in the first place and to periodically council would-be parents about the possibility of having to deal with unused embryos. I know someone who has three unused embryos frozen right now. She would like more kids but her husband isn't so sure. I can't imagine what it must be like to have to make the kinds of decisions they will about what to do with those three potential babies, but I wish them all the best and can only offer them support with whatever they decide.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.