Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Infertility patients caught in the legal, moral and scientific embryo debate.

Six years of frustration and heartbreak. That's how Gina Rathan recalls her attempts to become pregnant.

Finally, she and her husband, Cheddi, conceived a daughter, now 3, through in vitro fertilization. About a year later, she became pregnant with a second child, naturally. Their family was complete.

Then, a year ago, the Fountain Valley couple received a bill reminding them that their infertility journey wasn't quite over. They owed $750 to preserve three frozen embryos they'd created but hadn't used.

"I don't see them as not being life yet," says Gina Rathan, 42, a pharmaceutical sales representative. "I thought, 'How can I discard them when I have a beautiful child from that IVF cycle?' "

Many other former infertility patients also appear to be grappling over the fate of embryos they have no plans to use: An estimated 500,000 embryos are in cryopreservation in the United States.

As with the Rathans, this unexpected conundrum often arises well after the infertility crisis has passed, triggering impassioned and highly personal debates about the science and ethics of human life. The discussion boils down to a fundamental question: What is this icy clump of cells smaller than a grain of sand?

No comments: