To the Editor:
In the June 2013 issue of Fertility and Sterility, the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine published its latest opinion on the disposition of abandoned embryos (1), updated from 2004 (2). This is an important contribution to the literature on this timely issue, an issue that requires swift resolution.
At the conclusion of its 2013 article, the Committee writes:
“If a program reasonably determines…that embryos have been abandoned, the Ethics Committee concludes that the program may dispose of the embryos by removal from storage and thawing without transfer. In no case should embryos deemed abandoned be donated to other couples or be used in research” (emphasis added, 1849).
I agree with the Committee that clinics ought to be allowed to discard abandoned embryos. However, the Committee does not offer any argument to support their stronger claim that, if clinics are to do anything with abandoned embryos, they are morally permitted only to expressly discard them. (This lack of explicit argument is mirrored in their 2004 piece.) While we can reasonably expect that much discussion about this went on behind the scenes, presenting this position here—equipped with a normative prescription for clinicians about the disposition of abandoned embryos—without any explicit support, leaves the Committee’s position open to serious criticism. It is appropriate to ask the Committee for a statement of their reasons for making the strong conclusion that they do. Read the rest of this entry »