Why the ethical debate?


“Embryos for Sale!”

Why the ethical debate?

With this headline popup: yes from Newsweek and The Daily Beast splashed across the web this week, the ethics of embryo donation have been called into question. It all generated from an article that recently appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine regarding concern over a bank of cryopreserved embryos. The authors were two lawyers who determined that - legally and ethically - the practice of “selling embryos fills a need and should be viewed as acceptable.”


The author of The Daily Beast piece was alarmed by this conclusion and saw a more backhanded agenda, referring to the embryos as “not the happy leftovers from another couple’s quest to get pregnant,” but “created for the purpose of providing them to patients, who pay for the entire procedure.”


The fact is, these embryos are created from donated eggs and donated sperm. Egg and sperm donation is old news in the ever advancing world of infertility treatment. Informed consent on behalf of donors already exists and is not the issue, and if their consent is extended to the creation of embryos, then there is no controversy. Everyone is in agreement with what the article refers to as the “deliverables.”


An ethical debate here is unnecessary. This is a personal moral line of demarcation that everyone must determine from themselves. It may not be the the right decision for some, but as with other sensitive and very personal life decisions, it shouldn’t impact the choice for others.


As an agency enmeshed in the delicate process of alternative family building, we haven’t found this to be a common dilemma. Our experience with clients in this already challenging endeavor is that choice is paramount to the process. We doubt very much that intended parents would pursue the option of using banked embryos, as proven by the lack of traction toward already existing embryo donation programs. Intended parents would much rather be in the driver’s seat making decisions about their embryos, rather than leaving it up to scientists in lab coats to create their own subjective combinations.