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In Vitro Fertilization Clinics Destroys More Embryos Than Expected

IVF clinics could supply a large amount of embryos for stem cell research, a controversial issue that has raised many ethical questions in the public.
( [email protected] ) Sep 08, 2004 08:39 PM EDT

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University, doctors at in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics in the United States create more embryos than they will implant in a woman’s womb, and more than 80 percent are willing to destroy those embryos.

The study, published online by Politics and the Life Sciences last August, found 210 of 217 IVF clinics that responded to a questionnaire destroy more embryos than they will use in helping about 50,000 American women who are trying to get pregnant each year.

What this means is that IVF clinics could supply a large amount of embryos for stem cell research, a controversial issue that has raised many ethical questions in the public.

Many scientists claim embryonic stem cells, derived from excess embryos created during in-vitro fertilization, have the potential to cure spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Parkinson's and many other diseases. However, pro-lifers contend the promise of stem cells is far off in the future, and the research requires destruction of human life.

The survey study above simply reveals an ethical aspect that IVF clinics are facing. While responding to the survey’s results, C. Ben Mitchell, a bioethicist and an assistant professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in suburban Chicago, said, “There is a simple solution to the destructive practice of creating extra embryos, that is do not create any extra embryos. Embryos belong in uteruses. When we depart from that basic axiom, trouble is bound to follow.”

“Couples can control this situation if they are well informed, faithful to the basic axiom that embryos belong in the uterus and courageous,” added Mitchell “If they choose to use IVF, they should never allow the creation of more embryos than they are willing to have implanted. If couples find it impossible to say, ‘No,’ embryos will be killed.”

It is estimated that about 400,000 embryos are preserved in storage in the United States.

A copy of the study and its results can be found at http://www.politicsandthelifesciences.org/Contents/Early-release/Embryo.pdf