The Freezing, Implantation, and Adoption of Embryos


Thematic : Early life / Assisted reproduction


Published on : 01/07/2009

Author / Source : Alain Mattheeuws

Is it acceptable to freeze human embryos?

We began freezing human embryos in order to augment the efficiency of the diverse methods of medically assisted reproduction. In this way we do not have to ‘oblige' women to be subjected to repeated ovary sampling, either in the case where a first implantation is not successful or when a new fertilization is desired.

If we consider these embryonic cells as merely biological material or a potential embryo, freezing only poses technical or juridical problems (e.g., to whom belong these embryos entrusted to the clinic, abandoned or forgotten in a hospital?). On the other hand, if we consider that it is necessary to respect the human being from its conception, then freezing an embryo is unacceptable. It is morally illicit.

In fact, we must ask ourselves what gives us the right to plunge an embryonic child into a ‘cold prison?' In 1987 Donum vitae addressed the issue as follows: “The freezing of embryos, even when carried out in order to preserve the life of an embryo—cryopreservation—constitutes an offence against the respect due to human beings by exposing them to grave risks of death or harm to their physical integrity and depriving them, at least temporarily, of maternal shelter and gestation, thus placing them in a situation in which further offences and manipulation are possible” (I, 6).

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