Frozen embryos refer to embryos that have been generated in a previous or preceding cycle and have gone through embryo cryopreservation, and they often get thawed just before the transfer (Williams 172). Before the refinement of freezing methods, the only option was the use of fresh embryos. However, following the improvement of cryopreservation techniques, the practice of freezing embryos (to prevent the transfer of all the healthiest embryos to women) became popular. Today, most In-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics take advantage of embryo freezing. Freezing embryos also enable couples to undergo genetic testing, which can help in detecting potentially lethal genetic illnesses, as well as guiding physicians in deciding the type of embryos to implant (De Lacey 1752).
According to recent research by an international group of researchers, pregnancies and live birth rates are the same among women who use frozen or fresh embryos (Williams 174). Therefore, based on the recent research findings, frozen embryos have no harm, and several couples rendered infertile by various illnesses have become biological parents through In-vitro fertilization. However, most of such couples remain frustrated over the fate of the unused frozen embryos that they no longer require (Williams 175).
One of the solutions suggested for the unused frozen embryos that are no longer needed is to thaw and dispose of them (De Lacey 1755). Alternatively, the unused stored frozen embryos that are no longer needed can be returned in the women’s body during their cycles when they would probably not get pregnant, so that the embryos would die naturally (Williams 177). However, the decision-making process for the unused frozen embryos involves a great emotional burden, usually influenced by various socio-cultural factors, such as moral standards and cultural values (Williams 181).
Therefore, in the final decision regarding the fate of unused frozen embryos, couples have to choose between options that either involves destruction or donation. However, they have to make such a decision by considering contentious issues about the embryo’s status. In other words, they have to consider whether the embryos are viewed as the base for further development (or as potential children), or whether embryo donation is tissue donation or adoption.
De Lacey, S. (2007). Decisions for the fate of frozen embryos: Fresh insights into patients’ thinking and their rationales for donating or discarding embryos. Human Reproduction, 22(6), 1751-1758. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dem056
Williams, J. (2010). Resolving Disputes Over Frozen Embryos: A New Proposal. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 27(2), 172-185. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5930.2009.00476.