Medical ethics in use
and donation and of
embryo and fetuses
Vijayakumar David, Angelyn Veronica
MD II B (2013-14)
Topics to discuss
2. Embryo donation and embryo adoption
3. Cryopreservation of „spare embryos‟
4. What is done with the „spare‟ frozen embryos?
5. The Pros and Cons
6. Medical Ethics
• It is estimated that 2.1 million married couples
in the United States are affected by infertility.
• Approximately 10-15% of infertile couples
become candidates for various forms of Assisted
Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) to assist
them in having their own biological children and
here with it comes the concept
of embryo donation and adoption.
• The giving of fertilized egg(embryo) that are
created during In Vitro Fertilization(IVF) cycle
by couples who are affected by infertility.
• The receiving of In Vitro Fertilized embryos by
infertile couple from the couple who created
Cryopreservation of ‘spare embryos’
• The process of cryopreservation has become an
integral part of the IVF procedure.
“Cryopreservation is a process of freezing
biological tissues for storage. ”
• These embryos are looked upon as being in a
state of “suspended animation.” Cellular activity
has ceased, but each embryo is still alive.
What is done with the ‘spare’ frozen
• Donate them to someone else who wants to
conceive (embryo donation).
• Donate them to scientific research.
• Converted into embryonic stem cell lines.
• Continue to maintain them in storage
• Discard the embryos.
Success rate of embryo adoption
• To date, no long-term studies have been carried
out since the age of the oldest child born as a
result of frozen embryo transfer 14 years ago.
• It is estimated that 23,000 - 100,000 embryos
could be adopted, and successfully born from the
400,000 - 500,000 live human embryos stored
The new term used for such „embryo adopted‟
born babies is „Snowflake babies‟
• Partners who are unlikely to conceive(because of
*the risk of passing genetic disorders *unsuccessful with
IVF using their own gametes *no ovaries with little or no
menses *premature menopause *surgery or cancer
treatment with chemotherapy,radiotherapy)can have the
gift of giving birth to their adopted child.
• A sense of bonding and physical connection with the
baby since it is born in the mother‟s womb.
• No genetic match to either parent.
• The emotional process of embryo adoption is
For example, the potential consequence of the offspring
wishing to contact their genetic parents once
they are 18 years of age.
• Many frozen embryos are not healthy enough to
• More expensive.
• Babies are born with low birth rates and high
risk of birth defects due to the treatment and
• Personhood begins at conception or what is
known as fertilization.
• A single cell— zygote is highly specialized,
totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of
us as a unique individual.”
• Life must be absolutely respected and protected
from the moment of conception. Right from
fertilization is begun the adventure of a human
life, and each of its great capacities requires
time. . .to find its place and to be in a position to
• In consequence of the fact that they have been
produced in vitro, those embryos which are not
transferred into the body of the mother and are
called „spares‟ are exposed to an absurd fate,
with no possibility of their survival.
• Ethically, embryo donation/adoption focuses on
the issue of personhood.
• Embryos, being a life, it is a moral imperative to
“rescue” these embryos from their current status
of being in “frozen animation”.
• “Rescuing a child orphaned before birth.”
-Ethicist Therese Lysaught
• Alternatives to embryo donation:
1. Discarding of the embryos.
2. Destruction of the embryos for research
3. Allowing the embryos to stay in “suspended
None of these alternatives will protect and
preserve the value of the life of the embryo.
• Principle of Beneficence
First principle of morality -„do good and avoid evil‟
• Principle of Propotionate reason
This principle is applicable because the situation is
faced with two options both of which are unavoidable
Donating- Violates the privacy and autonomy of the
donors but preserves life.
Not donating- Embryos are destroyed by research or
left in suspended animation.
• The bottom line is that these embryos already
exist and therefore, the preservation of their
lives takes moral precedence over any other
• The direct intention of embryo
donation/adoption is to protect and preserve
human life by saving the lives of vulnerable at-
risk embryos and hence it would be ethical to
• 1. National Center for Health Statistics, “Infertility,”
October 31, 2007.
• 2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention,
“Assisted Reproductive Technology,” June 2008.
• 3. Rand Law and Health/Society of Assisted
Reproductive Technology (SART) Working Group,
“How Many Frozen Human Embryos Are Available
For Research?” May 2003.