Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fertility Patients Concerned About Embryo Disposition, But Resist Giving Embryos To Anyone Else

Date:
December 5, 2008
Source:
Duke University Medical Center
Summary:
Fertility patients who are done having children feel responsible for the stored, frozen embryos left over from their treatment, yet more than half are against implanting the embryos in anyone else, according to a new study.

Fertility patients who are done having children feel responsible for the stored, frozen embryos left over from their treatment, yet more than half are against implanting the embryos in anyone else, according to a new study by researchers at Duke University Medical Center.

"This really turns our moral presumptions on their heads," says Anne Drapkin Lyerly, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist and bioethicist at Duke, and lead investigator of the findings that appear online in Fertility & Sterility.

"Parents care very much about what happens to their embryos, but that doesn't mean they want them to become children. Our study shows that many feel they have to do what they can to prevent their embryo from becoming a child."

The survey of more than 1,000 fertility patients is the largest and only multi-site study to shed important light on the state of the nation's 500,000 frozen embryos currently in storage. It reveals previously unexplored concerns that patients have about their embryos, and it comes at a time when several states and even the federal government are attempting to enact legislation that would either assert an embryo is a person, allow abandoned embryos to be adopted by another couple, or allow unused embryos to become "wards of the state."

What to do with those unused embryos has also become a sticking point for providers, since they are held responsible for safe storage or disposition of apparently abandoned embryos.

Fresh embryos are used in more than 80% of fertility treatment cycles, but most patients also choose to freeze some embryos that were created but not implanted, to use as a possible backup. This means that extra embryos often remain after treatment is completed. Previous studies have found that when childbearing is complete, as many as 70 percent of patients put off for five years -- or more -- the decision of what to do with those frozen embryos, even while they continue to pay annual storage fees. In Lyerly's study, 20 percent of the patients who had completed childbearing indicated they were likely to freeze their embryos "forever."

The lack of acceptable options fuels patients' reluctance to make a decision. "Either the options they prefer aren't available or they are unacceptable," explains Lyerly.

In the survey, the researchers presented four embryo disposition options: thawing and discarding; reproductive donation; indefinite freezing; and donation for research. The majority were unlikely to choose any of these options except for one: research donation.

In a previous paper published in Science, Lyerly reported that 60 percent would be likely to donate unused embryos for stem cell research, an option not readily available. But even if federal policies on funding stem cell research change, Lyerly says that doesn't solve patients' conundrum.

"For many of these patients, the need to make a decision about disposing these embryos is not discussed up front. Understandably, fertility patients have hard times thinking about destroying their embryos when they are emotionally and financially invested in trying to make a baby," she says.

The conundrum arises when reproductive goals change without a renewed discussion about what to do with the embryos that have been stored. "Many centers don't make available all the options for disposition," Lyerly says. "Even in places where embryo research is not conducted, it's possible that embryos can be transferred to another center, yet this might not be discussed."

Two methods that were considered somewhat acceptable by about 20 percent of the fertility patients were placement of embryos in a woman's body at an infertile time, and the idea of a ritual disposal ceremony. Yet, Lyerly says these alternatives are rarely offered to patients even though "these may be the answers to many patients' desires as they allow the embryos to pass in a way that seems most respectful to them."

By bringing fertility patients' concerns to the forefront, Lyerly hopes the next step will be the development of clinical guidelines and ongoing informed consent processes for patients at various stages of fertility treatment. She also hopes it will encourage more detailed disclosure about the available disposition options and facilitate broad availability of disposition decisions that are morally acceptable to the majority of fertility patients.

This research was supported by the Greenwall Foundation Presidential Award and Faculty Scholars Program; Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy's Center for Genome Ethics, Law and Policy Research Fellowship Award; National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the Career Development Award from VA Health Services Research and Development the U.S. Department of Energy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University Medical Center. "Fertility Patients Concerned About Embryo Disposition, But Resist Giving Embryos To Anyone Else." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081204074444.htm>.
Duke University Medical Center. (2008, December 5). Fertility Patients Concerned About Embryo Disposition, But Resist Giving Embryos To Anyone Else. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081204074444.htm
Duke University Medical Center. "Fertility Patients Concerned About Embryo Disposition, But Resist Giving Embryos To Anyone Else." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081204074444.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins