CatholicPlanet.Net discussion group

CatholicPlanet.Net discussion group (
-   Teaching Series - moral theology (
-   -   frozen embryos (

Ron Conte 24th August 2009 01:35 PM

frozen embryos
I've been reading about assisted reproductive technology, which is the medical term used for various forms of artificial procreation. The ethical violations in this industry are horrific.

They harvest eggs from either the woman who wants a child, or from a donor (a young woman who has passed rigorous medical tests), then they fertilize the eggs in a petri dish. Very often, they create more embryos than are needed at the time, and they freeze those embryos for possible later use.

There was a study done in 2003 to estimate the number of frozen embryos in the U.S.

430 ART clinics were surveyed; 340 replied to the survey.

Those 340 clinics had 391661 frozen embryos on-site. Some clinics store embryos off-site, at a facility owned by them or by another organization. These off-sites were also surveyed and reported 9677 frozen embryos. Since some off-sites could not report which embryos were associated with which clinics, some double counting might have occurred, so the more conservative number of 4865 was used, i.e. only those off-site embryos that could be assigned to a specific clinic. This omits counting some frozen embryos

391661 plus 4865 = 396526 frozen embryos in the 340 clinics that responded to the survey.

Add to this another 51753 frozen embryos estimated by this survey in clinics that did not respond, but for which they had data from 1999. This still leaves 32 clinics for which there was no data. Nearly every reponding clinic was using cryopreservation of embryos, so the total is still an under-estimate

391661 frozen embryos (FE) in clinics
plus 4865 FE in satellite facilities (off-site)
plus 51753 estimated FE in clinics with data from 1999, but not 2003
equals 448,279 frozen embryos in the U.S.

But since the off-site facilities data is under estimated, and since 32 clinics provided no data, the number is more likely above 450,000 FE

Add to this number the additional embryos frozen since 2003, and the number is even higher.

The same study references studies done in the UK (52,000 frozen embryos in 1996) and Australia/New Zealand (71,176 FE in 2000). And those numbers also would almost certainly have increased since that time.

Now the count of FEs is 571,455 and this does not even include many other developed nations using ART.

The authors of this study determined that an estimate can be made of the number of frozen embryos based on the number of 'cycles' of attempted ART (which begin with the stimulation of the ovaries to produce eggs). Multiplying the number of cycles by 0.77 gave an estimate of the frozen embryos.

World Report on ART 2003 estimated total ART activity in the whole of the world is estimated at 1.1 million cycles a year

Cryopreserved Embryos in the United States and Their Availability for Research
Fertil Steril 2003;79:1063-9

ART Report for 2007

Ron Conte 24th August 2009 02:13 PM

The use of frozen embryos
The same study from SART and the RAND corporation reported the different uses for frozen embryos (FE):

'patient treatment' was most common (87%)
destruction, over 2.2%
'research', over 2.8%

since research necessarily involves destruction, over 5% of FEs are destroyed.

Some embryos are used for 'quality assurance activities' (whatever that means) and some were even used for 'embryology training'.

It gets worse. The 2007 report from the CDC on ART has the statistics on clinics in the U.S. (Clinics are required by law to report)

They typically implant 2 or 3 embryos in the woman. The odds are that the vast majority of embryos, fresh or frozen, do not survive to birth.

The best case is a donor egg from a young healthy woman, fresh not frozen; 2 or 3 embryos are transfered and at least one child is born 55% of the time. This means that 45% of the time all 2 or 3 embryos died. Within the 55%, often 1 or 2 of the 2 or 3 transferred embryos die. So the percentage of transferred embryos that die is well over 50%. There is insufficient data reported for determining the exact number or percentage of embryo deaths.

With frozen embryos from a young healthy donor, the percentage of transferred sets of embryos that result in at least one child born is 31.9 percent. Again, this does not account for the fact that 2 or 3 embyros are typically transferred, but only one live birth is needed to count toward the 31.9% 'success' rate. The percentage of embryos that survive is probably half or less than the reported 31.9%. But all this is from a healthy young donor.

When the source of the egg is the woman who wishes to bear the child, she may be older, she may have medical problems resulting in infertility.

When nondonor eggs are used and the woman is in her 40s, they use more embryos for transfer and the percentage is nevertheless as low as 15 to 20%. Again, the percentage of surviving embryos is probably less than half or less than 1/3rd of this number.

Conclusion: The number of frozen embryos in the U.S. is likely greater than 450,000, and the number worldwide is probably between one half million and one million. The vast majority of these frozen embryos die without being born.

Ron Conte 24th August 2009 04:52 PM

Another factor to consider.

The same SART RAND article states that, conservatively, as many as 65% of frozen embryos survive thawing.

But the statistics on number of transfers (of embryo into womb) versus number of live births do not reveal the number of frozen embyos that died in thawing. Obviously, when they thaw a number of embryos, they only transfer those that survive the thawing.

So in the best case statistic of a women under 35, using her own frozen eggs, the percentage of live births versus transfers is 33.6%. If 100 such embryos are thawed, at least 35 die prior to transfer, leaving 65 to be transferred to the womb, averaging 2.2 embryos per transfer, giving us 29.5 transfers. 66.4% of these transfers fail to produce any live birth.

Of frozen embryos, 87% are for use by patients plus about 2% that are donated to another couple. The rest are destroyed or are orphaned (can't determine who 'owns' the embryos; can't contact couple; dispute due to divorce, etc.)

35% die in thawing
43% (66.4% transfers of the 65% that survive thawing) die in the womb when there are no live births
for a subtotal of 78% deaths

22% survive thawing AND are associated with at least one live birth.

out of the 33.6% transfers that result in at least one live birth, some cases have one or two deaths of embryos (since usually 2 or 3 embryos are transferred). There is not enough information to determine what percentage of transferred embryos do not survive when there is at least one live birth, but the percentage of life births (for non-frozen embryos) with multiple infants born is only 34.9%, despite the fact that the average number of embryos transferred is over 2.

If about half die in the womb when there is at least one live birth, then the 22% drops to about 11%, meaning that 89% of frozen embryos that are thawed/transferred in an attempt to give them life die. This number could be higher, since clinics do not report the number of thawed embryos compared to the number transferred to the womb. Some embyros die in thawing, others might die in attempt to use IVF. Also, the number of deaths associated with live births is not clear.

These statistics are average numbers. The SART RAND study found that actual success rates in individual clinics varied very widely, from zero percent to 67%.

Ron Conte 25th August 2009 06:39 PM

More about these numbers:

The same study from SART and the RAND corporation reported the different uses for frozen embryos (FE):

'patient treatment' was most common (87%)
destruction, over 2.2%
'research', over 2.8%

since research necessarily involves destruction, over 5% of FEs are destroyed.

What happens is that embryos are stored by freezing, and they tend to remain frozen for years. More embryos are being put into freezing than are being thawed and transferred to the womb. So the number of frozen embryos is continually increasing.

The above cited study was done in 2003, and found about 450,000 FEs. By now it is likely that the number has increased to over 500,000, just in the U.S. Worldwide, the number of FEs is quickly approaching one million.

The percentage of destroyed embryos (including research) is said to be 5% (2.2 plus 2.8). But this refers to stored embryos that were scheduled for destruction (or 'research'). The actual number must be higher as a percentage because the stored embryos remain stored, even year after year. But the embryos scheduled to be destroyed soon are gone. So consider ten years of embryo freezing. Most embryos remain frozen, year after year. So at the end of the ten years, say 87% are kept for possible patient treatment, but there is no treatment scheduled for most. But the 5% that are scheduled for destruction have not been waiting for destruction for ten years. They are destroyed relatively soon.

Embryos destroyed in past years are not included in the 5%. But many embryos frozen in past years are included in the 87% because they remain in storage. Therefore, the estimate of 5% is lower than actual.

Ron Conte 1st September 2009 09:49 PM

An article on frozen embryos:

The procreation and freezing of 'extra' embryos has become routine. Then the parents are faced with yearly storage fees in the hundreds of dollars, or the decision to destroy the embryos.

The so-called 'compassionate transfer' where the embryos are transferred to the woman's womb with no chance of survival is merely a thin veil over the direct destruction of human embryos.

Shane 1st September 2009 09:55 PM

Unbelieveable. All of this cries out to Heaven for vengeance. It's terrible to see how animalistic humans can be sometimes, to think they can play God and treat life as a commodity for profit.

Shane 2nd September 2009 09:46 AM

Ron, do you think embryonic stem cell research will be significantly affected by the Warning?

Ron Conte 2nd September 2009 11:40 AM


Originally Posted by Shane (Post 27655)
Ron, do you think embryonic stem cell research will be significantly affected by the Warning?

Yes, I think so. There is no reason to do ESCR, even if one takes a secular point of view, there are other forms of stem cell research that do not involve the destruction of embryos, especially induced pluripotent stem cells: adult somatic (body) cells, such as skin cells are modified by adding 1 to 4 genes, making them pluripotent, able to develop into other types of cells.

I think that there is a strong push to widen the use of ESCR for a couple of reasons:

1. scientists do not like restrictions of any kind, even ethical ones,

2. ESCR is a useful excuse for persons wanting to promote abortion, then can claim that a certain type of abortion, ESCR, has (supposedly) very great benefits, curing all kinds of diseases. It is an end justifies the means type of argument, but the claimed end is very substantial, so it makes a better excuse for abortion than 'it's my body'.

I also hope that, after the Warning, people will realize that artificial procreation, and freezing of embryos, is gravely immoral.

All times are GMT. The time now is 01:48 PM.

Powered by vBulletin Version 3.6.0
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.