Confronting the frozen embryo dilemma

Sometimes one gets more insight into the ethical stakes of assisted reproduction through stories rather than through argument. In Today, an NBC News show, Erica Levens, one of its associate directors, discusses her painful history of infertility, her IVF cycles, and her surplus embryos. After having two sons, she still had 14 frozen embryos in an IVF clinic in Long Island. One day, when her sons were in their early 20s, she received a letter from the clinic. Her embryos were already 25 years old. Her options were to use them, donate them, destroy them, or pay storage fees.

Obviously I’m not going to use them, but emotionally it is still difficult to let go. I’ve thought about taking the embryos home and giving them a burial of some sorts. I can donate them to the lab for research or I could donate them somewhere else. I’m waiting to hear from several stem cell research facilities. But I just feel paralyzed. I can’t believe how difficult it is to come to a decision. What if I just do nothing again?

When I think about those embryos now, I’m surprised at how emotional I am. And I just cannot stop thinking about them. Maybe it’s because I’m so proud of who my boys have turned out to be. Maybe I’m just now taking a breath and realizing how traumatic it all was.

Whatever I do, they’re gone. And I guess I have to make that final decision. It brings up a lot of sadness, though.

There may be millions of surplus frozen embryos in the United States. Ms Levens’s dilemma suggests that deciding what to do with them will not be solved easily.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge   


This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

 Search BioEdge

 Subscribe to BioEdge newsletter
rss Subscribe to BioEdge RSS feed

comments powered by Disqus