The unwitting death of many

Freezer burn and poison take care of nearly half of frozen embryos


main_embryoThe following comes from a June 18 story in Crisis magazine.

Karla and Jacob began dating in 2009 when they were 42 and 32 years old, respectively. After Karla was diagnosed with lymphoma, and “despite neither of them thinking the relationship had long-term prospects,” both agreed to have human embryos created from their gametes. These were frozen for later use because treatment would, unfortunately, destroy Karla’s fertility. Their relationship was short-lived, yet, Karla’s only chance of giving birth to her own genetic children remained the use of the frozen progeny resulting from this relationship.

Jacob objected and the two went to court. This May, the Illinois judge ruled that Karla can transfer the embryos in spite of Jacob’s objection to “becoming a parent.” (He is, of course, already a parent of these embryos—he doesn’t want to bear the responsibilities that would follow a live birth of one of his children). This sad case is emblematic of many of the pitfalls and ethical problems inherent in the practice of freezing embryonic human beings for in vitro fertilization.

Cryopreservation of embryos keeps them alive but development is arrested as they remain frozen in a state of suspended animation. Submerged in liquid nitrogen in a freezer, dubbed a “Concentration Can” by the great geneticist, Jerome LeJeune, cryopreservation exposes these innocents to a host of risks, offenses, and further manipulation. The techniques used to freeze embryos today involve immersion in a solution of cryoprotectant (think anti-freeze) that reduces the likelihood of lethal ice crystals being formed inside the cells. They remain frozen indefinitely, entirely beholden to the whims of parents, the clinic, or government regulation.

The most obvious offense to their human rights is that the process of freezing and thawing the embryos leads to the death of many. A recent study indicated that 46 percent will not survive the freezing and thawing process. The two primary causes of death? Formation of ice crystals (freezer burn) or cytotoxicity (poison) from the cryoprotectant. As the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority has summarized, “Not all embryos will survive freezing and eventual thawing when they come to be used.  Very occasionally no embryos will survive.” Many will lose one or two cells, with associated risks not fully understood. In short, the freezing and thawing process exposes them to serious risk of harm and death.

But even if the technology was perfected and no deaths would occur (an exceptionally unlikely scenario), these human beings are frozen against their will and not for their own good. Consent to such a procedure cannot be presumed because IVF and the freezing of embryos do not offer reasonable hope of success or great benefit for the embryo. They offer, rather, significant risks that are well above what might be reasonably considered normal. These risks are accepted because of a prior choice for IVF which is, itself, an irresponsible herculean intervention with overall embryo survival rates hovering around 5-20 percent….

To read the entire story, click here.





To add a comment, click on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ icons OR go further down to the bottom of comments to the Post your comment box.


  1. Abeca Christian says:

    I don’t understand all this stuff but all I know is that this is wrong! These humans think of themselves as god’s. It sounds like a Frankenstein experiment. Lord have mercy!

  2. Life throws lots of things at you, infertility being one of them. The impact this has on your life is determined by how you choose to handle it. Yes, you can live well even without very much wanted children. However, with IVF some of your children will be killed for the sake of others. Are you really willing to make that choice? In charity toward all your children, I pray not. This is one of the reasons the Church has rightly warned against IVF.

  3. Michele says:

    Children must only be conceived in Marriage.
    Human life is sacred from conception until natural death.

    All people who choose to be Catholic must adhere to the Doctrine of the Faith which is contained in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition” (1997).
    for more info:

    See CCC paragraphs # 2270 – 2275; 2322 -2323; 2376 – 2377.
    Everyone should and will be held accountable for his or her own actions.

    CCC: ” 2377 Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable.
    They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that “entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person.
    Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.

  4. Linda Maria says:

    Modern Science (and the dubious “science” of Psychology) has led many to erroneously believe, that life on Earth has no limits, we can manipulate circumstances to suit our own needs and whims successfully, and overcome all problems in our way— with no regard for Christian morality in our thought and actions, and no respect for God’s Divine Will! To live this way, Science book in hand– is disastrous!! To guide our lives daily, we all need a proper foundation, as given by the Church! To make excellent decisions, we must go to God daily, in prayer! Some things are not possible, and some things are wrong! We must have the humility and grace to accept our limitations, and let God provide! This Earth, in the end– is not ours, and is not our True Home! Our True Home, is in Heaven, with God!!

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.