Saturday, April 4, 2009

Patients glad to have final say on embryos’ fates
Lifting of embryonic stem cell funding ban gives families more options

With the new lift off the ban from George W. Bush, the new stem cell policy by President Barack Obama allows for patients of IVF treatment to decide what they wish to do with the remaining of their embryos, whether they wish to save or discard them, or give them to research.

Amy Birney, a patient from IVF had resulted in just donating her remaining embryos to her doctor where he froze the embryos and put them in storage, since at the time under the previous policy, she could not donate her embryos for stem cell research.

A couple said they had five options. "Well, one, we could have used them to have a third child, the potential of a third child. We could have destroyed them, not used them and … have them thawed and put away. We could have donated them to another couple who's having reproductive difficulties and wants to have a baby. We could continue to do nothing. Or we could donate them to medical research."

Julie Robichaux, 38, and just one of the thousands of former infertility patients said, “(As an IVF patient) you know what your embryo can become. You know the actual, not just the potential.” She argues that the patients themselves have the final say about whether to donate their embryos to another family, to research, or to discard them, and that IVF patients realize the struggle of what to do with the remaining embryos. She also says "No one comes to IVF without a great soul searching and examination of our own morals. So for the government to take the choice away from us is extremely upsetting," she said.
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What should people do with their unused embryos?
There are about 300,000 frozen embryos that have been stored in the United States in 2003. The estimate now has risen to approximately around to 500,000, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

If unused embryos are not given to research, they are usually treated as biological waste and disposed of through incineration. Different IVF clinics have different options for the disposal of their embryos. IVF clinics usually need to have consent from the couple to dispose of it. Out of 175 IVF clinics surveyed in, the majority allowed couples to attend the disposal, while few even offered it to the patients.

This new overturn of the research policy gives the study for embryonic stem cells to continue and be federally funded. This gives the research community the supplies to now potentially catch up to the successful trials of using adult stem cells.

This article points out the fact that the patients are the ones that have a say in what happens to the remaining of their embryos. he way that patients can choose what to do with their remaining embryos that are not implanted in a woman’s womb is what I believe justifies the “destruction” of a human embryo after it has been created in an IVF clinic, and has been donated to research.

I think these two articles are important, since it in a way seems to put the moral dilemma to an ease over the destruction vs. the discarding of their embryos. It shows both sides, that sometimes the patients who donated want to take the embryos home and treat them as if they were human, but also gives others the choice of giving them to research that may benefit from such research instead of just freezing the embryos and letting them sit like they have for the past 8 years. I think that by having allowed the use of these “extra” embryos in the passed years would have speeded up the research.

I’m glad that there is finally a potential in the research of using embryonic stem cells and I think it will encourage researchers to show the benefits after certian trial and errors. The only thing that worries me is that the move from the thought of destroying embryos in the first place for research will now move to the concerns with experiencing the potential benefits by treating and testing the results on real humans in which puts the harm on real living people. But I understand that the only way to know if the stem cells work is through such trials.


  1. Hey Larissa -

    Your post's msn article about IVF and freezing cells to be used later got me thinking about the freezing process, and how exactly this happens, how they unthaw the cells, etc.

    I found this great article online w/ pictures and explanations about the process and how it happens.

    Cool post!

  2. Going along with the disposal issue, and besides the fact that embryos are the size of a period at the end of a sentence, this study also showed that 4% of the people performed a funeral ceremony upon disposal, including a prayer. This goes to show that size does not matter of whether some people consider an embryo so small to still be a human.

  3. I find it interesting that sometimes people who don't choose to donate their eggs to research still allow for their disposal. I understand not wanting to donate for research, however if the underlying issue people have with the research is that the embryo is in a sense their 'child' and one of us, I don't really see how discarding it is any different. However, it seems like keeping the embryo frozen is not an option one would choose for their offspring either.... it's almost like a lose-lose situation if you have extra embryos and you also think those embryos are alive.