Abandoned embryos in ethical and legal limbo

Xavier Symons
14 Sep 2013
Reproduced with Permission

The heated discussion over IVF embryo disposal continues in the US and Canada. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recently attracted attention for changing its stance on the ethics of embryo disposal. In a statement published in March in the journal Fertility and Sterility, the ASRM said it was "ethically acceptable" to destroy embryos if five years had passed since contact with the couple and reasonable attempted had been made to contact them. If no written instructions were provided on how to dispose of the embryos, the ASRM believes it permissible to destroy them.

Canadian fertility law expert Sherry Levitan has dismissed the force of the ASRM in legal matters, saying that, a "clinic either [has] the right to do it or they [don't], in law. It has nothing do with ethics". Dr Carl Laskin, founding partner of the Lifequest Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Toronto, said that the problem is creating "tremendous amounts of anxiety and stress" for IVF clinics. There are an estimated 20,000 abandoned human embryos in IVF clinics in the USA.