The number of “abandoned” human embryos in the United States could number in the millions, and many fertility specialists are reticent to discuss the dilemma of what to do with frozen embryos, according to a recent NBC News report.
According to Christine Allen, a fertility doctor who runs a consultant business called Elite IVF, most fertility clinics fertilize far more eggs than they plan to use when performing in vitro fertilization, leading to the practice of indefinitely freezing surplus embryos— far more even than the process of IVF, which has a high failure rate, attempts to implant into a woman’s uterus.
“You see [some women] having 40, 50 or 60 eggs retrieved in a cycle and the embryologist gets the orders from her doctor to inseminate all of them — and the question isn’t asked if the patient even wants that many inseminated. Nobody’s going to have 30 kids,” Allen told NBC News.
Several fertility doctors told NBC News that many clinics consider embryos abandoned after patients stop paying storage fees and fail to respond to the clinic’s attempts to contact them.
Approximately one-third of all the frozen embryos at a fertility clinic in Fort Myers have been discarded or abandoned, NBC News reported. Storage fees for frozen embryos typically run from $500 to $1,000 a year depending on the clinic.
Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology require fertility clinics to report how many embryos have been abandoned at their clinics, NBC News says.
Though the embryos themselves take up very little space, the nitrogen tanks used to store them do. With modern techniques, frozen embryos could last as long as 100 years, doctors say.
Father Tad Pacholczyk, Director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told NBC News that couples who have previously IVF undergone should consider setting up trust funds for their embryos in order to ensure that the storage fees will be paid indefinitely.
Pacholczyk has said in the past that for embryos already created and frozen, no other obvious moral options seem to exist other than keeping them that way.
“Creating a trust fund for the frozen embryo shows a couple is taking responsibility for what they created,” Pacholczyk told NBC News.
“To me, the complexity of the situation about what to do with these excess embryos is a powerful reminder that when you cross moral lines, there’s a price to be paid.”
Full story at Catholic News Agency.