Many Would Allow Research on Extra Embryos

Most infertility patients would let their extra embryos be used for stem cell research, according to a recent survey published in this month’s issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility. When they were asked if using leftover embryos for stem cell research should be allowed, 73 percent of those who gave a definitive opinion said yes, though blacks and Hispanics were less likely to approve the practice than were whites. Patients under 30, Protestants, those who were less wealthy, and those who were single were also less likely to support using the leftover embryos.
The patients were also asked if they would sell their extra embryos to other couples—something that both the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists consider ethically unacceptable. (For patients who can’t conceive using their own eggs, it’s more cost-effective to try using pre-existing embryos than an egg donor, according to the researchers.) When asked if selling their extra embryos to other couples should be allowed, 56 percent of those who gave a definitive opinion said yes.
These patients are the gatekeepers of the hundreds of thousands of embryos left over from in vitro fertilization that are now frozen and stored in fertility clinics, the researchers point out. “Infertility patients, in general, are altruistic,” says Dr. Tarun Jain, clinical IVF director at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lead author of the study, “and it makes sense that they would try to advance medicine and help others.” —Heather Wax

Category: Bioethics

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