US fertility clinics face ‘ethical conundrum’ of what to do with thousands of abandoned embryos

A new report has suggested thousands of embryos have been abandoned in US fertility clinics, with clinics having no clear idea of what to do with them

Fertility clinics have said they face ‘an ethical conundrum’ when it comes to these embryos, that have been left by people who have successfully completed their families and have not kept up payments on the storage fees, according the the report authors, NBC News.

The news programme published comments from a leading US fertility specialist, Dr Craig Sweet, who runs a clinic in Fort Mayers, in Florida.

He told the station that 21 per cent of embryos at the clinic had been abandoned and he said he was ‘not prepared for any of this’.

“The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the main guiding society for fertility doctors, has put out numerous papers indicating embryos are deserving of respect,’ he said. “This idea of abandoned embryos is an ethical conundrum.”

To do his bit to combat the issue,  Dr Sweet established Embryo Donation International (EDI) in 2011, so embryos no longer required were donated to help other infertile couples and individuals.

EDI gathered embryos from 67 fertility clinics, all donated from women and couples who had explicitly gave their permission to help others struggling with infertility.

He said he feels there needs to be better legislation when it comes to the abandoned embryos and fertility had a responsibility to help lobby for this.

He said: “I think many of us realise that we have a bit of a mess and I’m not sure doctors know how to fix it, but we need to try.”

Dr Christine Allen, an embryologist and founder of Elite IVF Ltd, a firm that helps fertility clinics troubleshoot problems, agreed there needs to be new rules put in place to deal with the issue.

She said the main problem was clinics fertilising far too many eggs

She said: “Nobody’s going to have 30 kids. With the technology we have, creating a large amount of surplus embryos is completely unnecessary. ”

She hoped the US would follow in the footsteps of countries such as Germany and Italy, where only a few embryos can legally be created and transferred, which avoid the issue of too many embryos and the subsequent abandonment.

Do you live in the US and are struggling with infertility? Would you consider using an abandoned embryo to complete your family? Or are you a woman who has completed her family and now faces this issue? We’d love to hear your story, email

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