Nearly 2,000 frozen embryos that have been stored in New Zealand fertility clinics for the past ten or more years will be discarded beginning November 22.
The Human Assisted Reproductive Technologies (HART) Act, which passed in 2004, requires that no embryo or gamete be stored for more than ten years. However, an extension can be obtained from the Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ECART). It is not known how many extensions have been granted by ECART.
According to Richard Fisher, co-founder of Fertility Associates, New Zealand’s largest fertility clinic, there were approximately 1,950 embryos, produced by about 350 women or couples, affected by the law.
Some of the embryos that have reached their ten year storage limit have already been destroyed.
Fertility clinics have six months after November 22 to dispose of the embryos and reproductive tissue. No storage extensions may be granted after this date and the embryos and gametes may not be used in any way.
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Currently there are more than 10,000 embryos in storage. If these are not used within ten years of first being frozen, they too must be discarded.
This particular situation is quite unique in that such a large number of embryos are affected all on the same date.
Dame Colleen Bayer, national director of Family Life International NZ, said the situation is a tragedy. “So much nascent life lost at once. It is a sad day for New Zealand,” she said.
The organization has chosen to mark the horrendous loss of nascent human life by holding Masses of Remembrance. They are supported by Archbishop John Dew (Wellington), Bishop Patrick Dunn (Auckland) and Bishop Colin Campbell (Dunedin). The Masses will all occur at the same time on Friday November 21.
For more details about the Masses of Remembrance please visit Family Life International NZ’s website.