The embryo decision: use, donate, destroy or research?

Prue Corlette
Prue Corlette 

I got a phone call from a journalist a few weeks before I had our twins who was writing a story on frozen embryo donation. It was one of those bizarre things because the previous day, I had received a bill on the mail for six months of cryostorage for the embryos we have left. It precipitated a discussion with my husband as to what we might do with our remaining embryos.

There are four options for remaining frozen embryos after you have had children. You can either continue trying for more children by transferring them back into the uterus in a frozen embryo cycle; you can donate them to couples/singles who haven't been able to produce their own; you can donate them for research, or you can have them destroyed.

We only ever wanted two children. Now that we have our twins, at some stage we will need to make the decision as to what to do with our remaining embryos. It's not a decision we need to make straight away, because embryos can be stored for several years, but eventually we will need to decide what to do.

When I first started thinking about it, I was all for donating to another couple. The classifieds sections of parenting magazines like Sydney's Child as well as the Essential Baby donor forum are full of people pleading for donor embryos. The embryos we have in storage are 100% the DNA of me and my husband. Any potential children that result from them would be 100% siblings to our boys. And now that I have my boys, I admit to being less likely to want to donate them. Before I had children (yes, having them has made me reevaluate my stance on several things) I saw the embryos as nothing more than specks of tissue. Five cells, rather than potential people.

Now that the boys are here, I have been thinking about how I would feel about another couple bringing up what are genetically our children. How would I feel if, heaven forbid, something happened to one of my boys that needed some kind of donation – be it organ, blood, tissue or cells. Do I have the right (moral, not legal) to ask the parents of any children resulting from a donation of our embryos to offer up the parts of their children to ours? After all, we gave them the building blocks for life. Or what if the tables were turned and those children needed something my boys could provide? Would I be obligated, morally, to offer?

The option least favourable to me is to destroy the embryos. What a waste of technology, time, pain (on my behalf) and opportunity to essentially rinse them down the sink. Without research on donated embryos, developments in IVF technologies would be nowhere near as advanced as they currently are.

I have also read that some religious women will have the embryos transferred back into the uterus at an inopportune time, when the embryo is unlikely to survive, just to keep their conscience clear and so they can tell themselves they haven't destroyed life. I don't get the difference between that and flushing the embryos down the loo, but if it makes them feel better about themselves, whatever.

And after such a complicated and painful pregnancy, I am 99% sure I won't be using the embryos myself, and while I would love to give a childless couple the most wonderful gift in the world, for the time being, those little specks of us will continue to sit in suspension.

What choice would you make? Leave a comment for Prue on her blog.