Embryo donation can raise sticky ethical questions.
Embryo donation can raise sticky ethical questions.

I just read an interesting article in the Vancouver Sun on the ethics of embryo donation (also known as embryo adoption): “Embryo ethics: Finding a home for Canada’s frozen ‘orphans’ ” (article no longer online). While acknowledging that the growing numbers of frozen embryos that will not be used by the people who produced them via in vitro fertilization (IVF), the article raises questions about the ethics.

Ethical concerns surrounding embryo donation

  • What rights do the children created have?
  • Should children be raised by parents to whom they are not genetically related? (Duh, ever hear of adoption?!?  Sorry, I couldn’t help that editorial comment.)
  • Should the children have the right to know the identity of the people whose DNA created them?
  • Should we even be producing more embryos than can be used at once?
  • Some couples are finding one another on the web, raising concerns that despite a federal act outlawing the purchase of human sperm, eggs and embryos, money may still be changing hands.
  • Should the biological parents be able to donate frozen embryos to their infertile children thus creating cross-generational donations?
  • What are the psychological implications for the children born from donated embryos knowing that the people who created them did not choose to parent them?

Embryo donation can benefit from research on both adopted children and children conceived via donor sperm.

Embryo donation is both different from and similar to traditional adoption–hence why some believe that it should be called “embryo adoption”. Regardless where you fall on the labeling debate, I think most of us would agree that the 50+ years of research on adopted children and adults would at the very least shed some light on the psychological implications for the children.

There are also similarities to children conceived through donor sperm.  The embryo donation field should look to the beginning research on kids conceived through donor sperm and to the various groups formed by parents and teens and adults born through donor sperm when deciding on what is in the best interest of the children and families formed through donated embryos.

Mainly though, I want to hear what you have to say about these ethical issues.


Image credit:  Leo Reynolds