America Needs to Perform Embryonic Research
Only twenty years ago, embryo freezing (cryopreservation) was considered a technique that raised “disturbing,” “extremely difficult,” “incredibly complex,” and even “nightmarish” ethical issues. Currently, however, at least 41 of the 169 infertility clinics in the United States have begun to implement in vitro fertilization protocols (IVF) (Freemann et al., 1986). The number of frozen embryos in this country nearly tripled, from 289 to 824, between 1985 and 1986 (Van Steirteghem and Van Den Abbel, 1988). An estimated ten infants in the U.S. and sixty in the world were born as of 1988 after having been frozen as embryos. The government and professional advisory groups have endorsed embryo cryopreservation in several countries, but despite these developments, human embryo freezing is still not universally accepted. The fact that freezing lengthens, perhaps indefinitely, the period of embryonic existence outside and independent of the human body allows new options for manipulation of the embryo and for its ultimate fate. As a consequence, the emerging technology raises a number of issues that challenge deeply embedded ethical principles.
Cryopreservation is defined as the scientific technique that utilizes extremely cold temperatures to freeze or suspend an organism for storage and ultimately future use. The ability to freeze human embryos creates several clinical options that might not otherwise be possible or as efficiently achieved. Cryopreservation also opens up new research opportunities such as understanding infertility in men and women. Published studies indicate that cryopreservation increases prospects for pregnancy in infertile couples (Wood, 1988).
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...mmittee on Regulation and Business Opportunites, House of Representatives, 100th Congress, Second Session, 62-76.
Department of Health, Education and Welfare: Ethics Advisory Board. 1979. Report and conclusions: HEW support of research involving human in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. Federal Register 44: 35033-35058.
Freemann, L., A. Trounson, and C. Kirby. 1986. Cryopreservation of Human Embryos: Progress on the Clinical use of the Technique in Human in Vitro Fertilization. J. In Vitro Fert. Embryo Transfer 3: 53-61.
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