CAMDEN, New Jersey, August 27, 2004 ( – Fertility specialists create more embryos than are needed when performing in-vitro fertilization. The question arises: what is done with all the “extra” embryonic children? Researchers at Rutgers and Pennsylvania State Universities conducted a survey of fertility clinics to answer the dilemma.

The scientists found that besides simple disposal, clinics will also offer other options, such as adoption. Some clinics even allow the parents to take their embryonic children home, or allow them to attend a “funeral” for the children.  “There is certainly a lot more ambivalence about what embryos are than I had ever imagined before starting this study,” study co-author Arthur Caplan said, as reported by Wired News. “The fact that these practices are so varied shows a lot more division even in groups that work with embryos than we might have guessed.”  In a survey of 217 IVF clinics in the U.S., Caplan and co-author Andrea Gurmankin learned that 97 percent of clinics create extra embryos and cryopreserve them.  Caplan and Gurmankin found that most clinics were willing to donate the embryonic children as a source of stem cells for research. This, despite evidence that most also believed the embryo was more than just a “collection of cells.”

The team also learned that 81 percent dispose of extra embryos—most only after receiving permission from both parents. Disposal was typically by incineration.  Four clinics said they give the “extra” embryonic children back to the parents to take home, however, how they were sent home was not answered by the survey. “They’re the size of a period at the end of a sentence,” said Caplan. “Do they put them in baggies, a matchbox?”

Twenty-eight clinics said they offered the opportunity for parents to be present for the disposals, while 14 percent forbade it. Most said they would allow parents to be present, although they did not explicitly offer the option. Four percent of clinics that disposed of the children said they held funerals, including prayers.  tv