By John Connolly
LONDON, January 2, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Following a UK Parliamentary question, data from a government organization showed that over one million human embryonic children were killed in the UK in the past 14 years as ‘waste’ embryos from in vitro fertilization (IVF) processes.
The acquired data showed that 2,137,924 embryonic humans were created using IVF between 1991 and 2005, but about 1.2m were never used. Scientists killed the embryos who were not deemed strong enough for implantation, and froze those not considered ‘waste’ embryos. Those that survived the freezing process will die in ten years if not implanted.
‘Surplus’ embryos were created because women responded differently to fertility drugs, doctors told the Times Online. As many as 40 IVF-fertilized eggs can be used in some treatments. The embryos are then assessed for viability, with only about 20% usually considered strong enough to implant successfully in a woman.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, an independent peer noted for his stance against abortion, tabled the question to parliament and obtained the statistics from the Department of Health. He said that embryos were being created and destroyed at “an incredible rate,” and advocates embryonic adoption for those embryos that aren’t used for implantation in IVF.
“IVF has ensured that a number of people have been given a chance to have children. But it is surprising how many embryos are being destroyed in the process,” he said. “This is a rather unexpected aspect of IVF. If you could just create an embryo to implant, that would be fine. I think it would be much better if these embryos that are going to be destroyed were used for infertile couples. At least they would have a chance of life. The number of embryos used is expanding year after year.”
Embryo adoption is legally permitted in the UK and United States, but is rare in both countries. Advocates of the process are also calling for the embryonic children to be given up for adoption, where all of them will be frozen and all the survivors used for infertility treatment, provided volunteers with the necessary money can be found within the ten year period.
“Lots of people do have surplus embryos and if people could think about donating embryos it would be wonderful,” said a spokesman for Infertility Network UK. “Embryo donation is a much bigger thing in America; it is like adoption. It would be good thing to explore further.”
In America, the Snowflakes charity arranges the adoption of embryos by couples who want children. This has, however, led to the birth of only 157 babies in the past 10 years.
The Los Angeles-based Snowflakes charity said it does not “discriminate” between embryos judged to be healthy or unhealthy and added that embryos it has used, which doctors had judged not to be viable, have still produced healthy babies.
The number of pregnancies that have occurred through embryo adoption remains low in the U.S. and the UK due to its high cost and controversial nature. To avoid twin and triplet pregnancies, embryo adoption agencies attempt to implant one and two embryos at a time, an expensive process that usually needs to be done multiple times before a frozen embryo survives in the womb of the adoptive mother.
Last month the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the regulator of IVF practice in the UK, called for a reduction of twin pregnancies in IVF, leading scientists and doctors to look for IVF methods that will use fewer embryos. The authority wants to see many women offered just one fertilised embryo, a step which would minimize the chances of a twin birth and would reduce the number of embryonic children being created and destroyed a few days later.
See LifeSiteNews Special Report on IVF:
See previous LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Adoptive Parents of Girl Frozen as Embryo Battle Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Canadian IVF Researchers Admit 80-90% of IVF-Created Human Embryos Doomed to Die
VATICAN SOLUTION TO LEFT OVER EMBRYO DILEMMA IS LITTLE KNOWN
ABOUT 170,000 IVF EMBRYO DEATHS PER YEAR IN U.S.