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Moral Dilemma of Artificial Insemination: What to do with "Leftover" Embryos?


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?

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If they're so worried about all these precious little "lives", then perhaps IVF wasn't the best route for them.

They could donate them to science and perhaps save the lives of other children down the road. Oops... but that's evil and murderous, isn't it?

Oh, well. I guess they'll just have to find surrogate mothers for all 500,000 of these embryos.
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They'll get over it. Funny how they didn't predict and deal with this ahead of time..I'm assuming every step of this was painstakingly slow.
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I worked at a fertility center for 4 years before I quit. People are so desperate for just one child they can't see anything other than that goal. Once they had their kid they just didn't care anymore.
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the embryos could be used for stem cell research to potentially help people with severe and debilitatng spinal injuries to regain function or even to walk again... if laws would allow it. that's the dopey situation there is at the moment - because of people claiming it is 'immoral' to use embryos for science and research these embryos instead get thrown out. the potential to change someone living's life is thrown away because these embryos represent the potential for human life, even though that potential will never be realised. instead of being part of something lifechanging & wonderful, they are thrown in the bin. muuuuch better!
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haha i totally agree with Neatoramawontsendmeapassword.

Do these people not even realize that the doctors didnt just implant one embryo?? They usually implant 5-7 viable embryos. So was it OK for them to sacrifice those, but its wrong to use the frozen ones to help thousands of sick/hurt people?
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I think I'd go through the same moral dilemma at first, but ultimately tell them to just toss it. Considering how much of it goes down the drain every day world wide, it's not that huge of a stretch for me mentally and morally.
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If it's immoral for you to play god by practicing selective abortion and discarding hundreds of embryos, perhaps it was immoral to play god in the first place by having IVF. The inconsistency is impressive.
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There are organizations (Nightlight Christian Adoptions, Embryos Alive) that allow couples to officially adopt "unusued" embryos. They are implanted via IVF in the womb of the adopting woman and are considered the legal child of the adoptive parents.
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Um... people... correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the human female body cleanse itself of the unused egg cell once a month?

Or are all those menstrating women out there baby killers now?

I don't have this debate when I finish myself off to XXX porn into a towel.

People think too much.
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I was thinking sushi for some reason.

Are they viable embryos? Cause that's cool. They could send them off to colonize Mars.
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As someone who decided early on to abandon my own capabilities of reproduction (vasectomy), and focus on the prospects of adopting real live children who need parents, I have a real problem with IVF. Especially when this kind of waste becomes evident.
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They had to think about it long before there were "leftovers". I've been through ivf, not lucky enough to have "leftovers" because my situation was pretty dire to start with. However, before we started the whole thing, we signed about a dozen different releases, including a several-page notarized document about what to do with any extra embryos. Our choices were freezing, discarding or donating to science. The form was very thorough, including what happens if one partner dies, if we're divorced, if someone remarries, etc. So I assure you, these people weren't surprised with sudden leftover embryos.
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There is not a single sane human who would save a burning bus full of a million frozen embryos instead of a burning bus full of six-year-old kids.

Accept that embryos and children are not valued equally.

Moreover, how about we focus less on unborn embryos and more on the quality of life that our not-frozen, already out of the womb, CHILDREN will have going into the future.

There are serious problems with education, health care, the environment, and the economy we need to deal with which are way, way more important than if some embryos get a shot at life.

We can make more embryos, people. We're mighty good at it. If it was hard, we wouldn't have six billion people on the planet.
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Ever notice how none of the protesters outside abortion clinics has double baby strollers with a pair of adopted kids in them? Put your money where your mouth is before you deign to lecture me about morality.
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The sheer ignorance of so many of the commenters above is truly astonishing -- and worrying, since they have (or will have) the right to vote. The following are FACTS and not opinions:

1. An human embryo is a human being, a person with exactly the same inalienable rights (including the right to life) as any commenter who posted above. This is true from conception (which is correctly defined as the completion of fertilization of an ovum by a sperm -- not as the implantation of an embryo in a woman's uterus). A human embryo is not not a member of a lower "caste" of person, subject to nazi-like manipulation.

2. No one can experiment on any human being without his/her expressed consent.

3. No human being can give consent to an experiment that will surely kill him/herself or another.

4. Embryonic stem cell research kills an innocent, defenseless embryonic human being (who has not, cannot, and may not give consent for it), and it is thus unjustifiable homicide.

5. There is no such thing as a "spare" human embryo, just as there is no such thing as a "spare" infant, toddler, teenager, adult, or oldster. Each embryo has the right to a full life, not to being slaughtered. We must all reject the long-ago discredited, anti-human philosophical school called "Utilitarianism," wherein one human being can be USED (actually ABUSED) for the seeming benefit of another or of society.

6. Each human embryo has the right to be born to a married mother and father who have brought the embryo into existence only through normal intercourse.

7. While married men and women may not be deprived by the state of their right to intercourse or to engender as many children as they can responsibly rear, they do not have a right to bring about the conception of a child by any scientifically possible means (e.g., IVF). The state can give them a freedom/liberty, but not a right, since rights come only from the Creator (as the Declaration of Independence tells us).

8. Practically speaking -- even if embryonic stem cell research were ethical (i.e., non-murderous) -- people need to know that it has TOTALLY failed anyway, for years and years, and (I hope) may always fail.

9. By contrast, all other forms of stem cell research -- which are NOT murderous and NOT unethical -- for example, mature stem cell research involving cells taken from born humans, their placentas, or their umbilical cords -- have resulted in the curing of an ever-increasing number of disorders/paralyses/etc. (more than 70 at this point).

10. 90% of the media, being godless, ultra-left-wing, pro-death ideologues hide points 8 and 9 from the public, in order to push for more and more murderous, utilitarian, embryonic stem cell research.

Dear God in heaven, please help the readers of Neatorama to LEARN facts and to respect human life.
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Oh, isn't that just sweet! Here comes "Big Brother" to censor (or delete) what I wrote, because He doesn't want the whole truth to be known. Just pathetic and truly demonic!
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Hey AnUnSi, so which would you save from a burning building -- if you were only able to save one:

1) A tray of 100 fertilized embryos.
2) Two 5th graders.
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lol @ AnUnSi. You never fail to entertain. You must have said something the automated screener thought was offensive.

Your one statement defies your other statements.

6. Each human embryo has the right to be born to a married mother and father who have brought the embryo into existence only through normal intercourse.

These embryos have not been brought into existence through normal intercourse. According to your logic, they are demon seed, and ought to be destroyed.

What is "married", anyways, AnUnSi? Are Hindus and Moslems married? Are Protestants married? Are people who are married in a civil ceremony truly "married"?

I think my idea was pretty good, but you didn't comment on it - why not send these babies to Mars?
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I had another idea.

They could be sold to homosexual couples - married ones, of course - none of that evil "living in sin" lifestyle for these babies.

Which would be better in your opinion, AnUnSi, to terminate the babies, or to have them raised by homosexuals?
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I had a very religious friend who did this, and for her, it wasn't wrong to destroy the rest of the embryos, because they had only 2 cells each. I suppose anybody faced with probably get over it...or keep them frozen forever?
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