While We're Talking Choice - What About Embryos?

Amy Hendel Health Guide
  • Half a million embryos are in storage right now.  Whether you know it or not, half of those will probably be discarded.  What about the other half? Well most couples who created them made some kind of decision before they created them (if they were ultimately not used).  It was assumed that they might need them all in order to have a successful birth.  But when these couples abandon their dreams, or fulfill them quickly, they may or may not feel differently about disposing them.


    You can donate them for research or you can donate them to be implanted in another woman who wants to have a baby and cannot.  The rules and guidelines that govern both those decisions are fraught with complicated processes that can daunt even the most determined couple or individual.

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    And of course, at the core of  this discussion is the qeustion - what do you consider this clump of tissue to be?  Is this tiny sized (grain of sand) collection of cells a life?  This November, Colorado will vote on whether to amend the state constitution to assert that the embryo is a life; Indiana will consider legislation that suggests that the embryo be "adoptable."  New Jersey has moved that the embryos become "wards of the state."  Georgia and West Virginia are considering legislation to give the embryos "personhood status."


    Thus is born the politics of embryos.  So you can decide to (a) discard (b) donate to research (c) donate to another couple.  The (d) is to keep paying for storage and defer the decision.  Actually, few doctors if any discard the embryos even after 5 years have passed, for fear that a couple will show up the next day - even if efforts made to contact the couple have been unsuccessful.  Most people involved in the decision find donations to science the best middle ground.  But research hasn't quite caught up with this donation concept and so many couple find it very difficult to pull off.


    Of course there is the whole moral dilemma as well - is it a life/isn't it a life?  What is the moral perspective of a test tube embryo? And if the Supreme Court does indeed find that "embryos are entitled to personhood," what does that do to Roe verus Wade and the legality of abortions?  And what if genetic disease is found in those embryos...what then?

Published On: October 08, 2008