Frozen human eggs at a fertility center. Photo: Mark Boster / LA Times
After successfully conceiving a daughter through in vitro fertilization, Gina Rathan and her husband Cheddi was faced with a moral dilemma they didn't expect to encounter: what to do with the "leftover" preserved frozen embryos they created, but hadn't used?
"I don't see them as not being life yet," says Gina Rathan, 42, a pharmaceutical sales representative. "I thought, 'How can I discard them when I have a beautiful child from that IVF cycle?' "
Many other former infertility patients also appear to be grappling over the fate of embryos they have no plans to use: An estimated 500,000 embryos are in cryopreservation in the United States.
As with the Rathans, this unexpected conundrum often arises well after the infertility crisis has passed, triggering impassioned and highly personal debates about the science and ethics of human life. The discussion boils down to a fundamental question: What is this icy clump of cells smaller than a grain of sand?