I’ve written about the extra embryo problem in the past. Basically when people engage in IVF they generally end up with more embryos than the need for their own use. What to do with extras?
As this story makes clear, there are a few options; the embryos can be destroyed, they can be used for research, or they can be used for ART by someone else. This can be a difficult choice. For some people the destruction of embryos, whether for its own sake or for research purposes, is unacceptable. This makes the last option most acceptable, but it brings with it its own questions. Who should get the embryos? Who should decide who gets the embryos? What process should be used?
Some people talk about embryo adoption and while this usually reflects their beliefs about the status of the embryos, it is legally incorrect. Continue reading
Extra embryos are an frequent and generally unavoidable consequence of IVF. This means that figuring out what to do with those extra embryos is a fairly common dilemma for those engaged in IVF. This is reflected in a couple of stories I’ve seen on the web recently. While sometimes the focus is just on the practice of “embryo adoption” I’d like to think more broadly about the topic for a moment.
First off, consider why the extra embryo problem arises and why it will not go away anytime soon. Continue reading
There’s an article in today’s NYT about a proposal to amend the Mississippi state constitution to declare that fertilized human egg is a person. While the drive is primarily fueled by those opposed to abortion, the implications of the amendment are obviously broader and touch on some of the topics I often address here.
One obvious impact would be on IVF. In IVF, embryos are created in a laboratory and then transferred into a woman’s uterus. (Do keep in mind that some heterosexual couples do this with their very own gametes, so there’s no necessary connection to all the commodification issues that we’ve been talking about with regard to sale/purchase of sperm and eggs.) Continue reading
One quick note to add to the whole wrong embryo discussion, one that also ties back to an earlier and more general post about ART mistakes. This story reports that a single clinic in the New Orleans area mislabeled dozens of frozen embryos creating the potential for many mix-ups like that experienced by Carolyn and Sean Savage.
Even in the best of all possible worlds, mistakes are bound to happen. And in our particular world, we really don’t know how frequently they occur. That’s one of the reasons why all the legal uncertainty I’ve detailed is so important. While the Savages and the Morells appear to have agreed on an outcome in their case, that won’t always be the case. Litigation is bound to occur. This new story convices me that it may well be sooner rather than later.
Just a quick coda to the recent case popularly referred to as “the wrong embryo case.” (And yes, I’ve used that terminology, too.) Thursday Carolyn Savage gave birth to a baby boy and the boy will be raises by the Morells, who are genetically related to him.
What’s most notable to me is the language the Morells used to describe Carolyn Savage. In earlier discussions here I and some commenters touched on whether she would be considered a surrogate. But the Morells chose to call her a “guardian angel” and the headline writer shortened that to “guardian.”
A long time ago on this blog I struggled with word choice in various surrogacy situations. Nothing like “guardian” ever crossed my mind.
It’s an interesting choice. I think, at least in this context, to be called a guardian is to given a certain amount of honor. It’s a more favorable term than “surrogate.” There is a way in which, particularly under these circumstances, it seems appropriate. But there is a tinge of something there that makes me a trifle uneasy. (Is it from the Handmaid’s Tale?)
I wonder if the term has a future outside of this one instance?
As more details are reported about the recent wrong embryo case I can see even more issues to discuss. (I’ve done several recent posts about it and there’s been some interesting discussion there.)
To recap quickly, Carolyn Savage and her husband Sean had donated their own genetic material to create some embryos in order to use IVF. After the birth of one child, the remaining embryos were frozen. Last winter they went back to the clinic to use some of those frozen embryos in the hopes of having another child.
Carolyn Savage did get pregnant but it turned out that the clinic had mistakenly used embryos of another couple, Paul and Shannon Morell. Now as it happens, this time it seems it will work out as well as it possibly could–the couples are in contact and the Savages have agreed to turn the baby over to the Morells once it is born. The key thing, to me, is that the couples have come to an agreement.
But here’s a thing that leapt out at me in today’s news. Continue reading
I want to continue the wrong-embryo thread a bit longer, but before I do I want to make it clear that I am now fully in the realm of the hypothetical. The discussion here takes off from the earlier posts, but I’m now changing facts freely just to make myself good questions.
In the real world, the Carolyn Savage ended up pregnant after an embryo that belonged to someone else was transferred into her uterus. Now we’ve assumed that the embryo was actually created with the other couples sperm and egg. But suppose that is not the case. Suppose the other couple had purchased one of the elements (let’s start with sperm) and then used it to create the embryos that were frozen. Continue reading