'Adoption' an alternative to embryo disposal?
July 30, 1996
Web posted at: 1:15 a.m. EDT (0515 GMT)
From Reporter Don Kladstrup
LONDON (CNN) -- There is no question that test-tube
conception has brought happiness to thousands of infertile
However, thousands of embryo donors may be in for a rude
surprise shortly. Fertility clinics in Britain will begin
destroying more than 3,000 frozen human embryos on Wednesday.
"We have fought for months now to try and preserve all these
embryos, to save them for the future use of couples. But we
are going to be required by law, and it is now the law of the
land, that we destroy these embryos," said Dr. Peter
Brinsden, director of a fertility clinic in Cambridge.
A law passed in 1990 stipulates that human embryos can only
be kept in storage for five years, unless the donors
specifically request an extension.
For various reasons, many have failed to do so. Some can't
decide what to do with their frozen embryos and are letting
the state decide for them; others have been disappointed by
failed attempts to carry an embryo to term.
Other donors, like Nanette Monaghan, could not be tracked
down by their clinics. Monaghan, the mother of twins born
almost four years ago from frozen embryos, was unaware that
her clinic had been trying to reach her because she had been
living in Australia.
"Well, I came back and I'd thought I'd give them a ring, and
they said, oh, good job you phoned now, you've just got us in
time because there's a deadline on Tuesday where they dispose
of all the eggs. And it just doesn't bear thinking about
because when you see my twins, I mean I couldn't have them
any other way."
Mrs. Monaghan, who was sterilized several years ago, would
like to have more children. She told her clinic to preserve
her embryos for another five years.
When embryos are destroyed, they are simply lifted from the
freezer, and allowed to disintegrate. The law was passed
because Britain's Human and Fertilization Embryology
Authority said it was impractical to keep every embryo
Yet, many think destroying the frozen, two-celled structures
is a terrible waste. "They are potential human beings," said
embryologist Dr. Robert Evans.
"I am not one of those who grants the embryos the same rights
as a child, but we have stored them to establish a
Doctors create extra embryos because in-vitro fertilization
does not always work. There is only a one-in-ten chance of a
frozen embryo becoming a human being. Nevertheless, their
scheduled destruction has been called a "pre-natal massacre"
by pro-life forces.
Parliament member David Alton is one of that number. He
suggested an alternative: "Rather than destroying the embryos
that have been frozen and are simply going to be flushed down
the pan," parents should be given the right to adopt the
As much as Dr. Brinsden dislikes the idea of defrosting any
embryos, he is adamantly opposed to the suggestion of making
them available for adoption.
"I believe it is quite morally and ethically wrong to do so.
It would be out of the question, to put them up for adoption
without the consent of the couple for whom they were
originally created," he said.
"Although many of the groups say that would be acceptable,
the very large majority of people would feel very unhappy and
the couples would feel very unhappy if they knew there was a
child (of theirs) wandering around this world they knew
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