Doctors Group Calls on Families to Consider Embryo Adoption

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 21, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Doctors Group Calls on Families to Consider Embryo Adoption

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
November 21, 2003

Washington, DC ( — The Christian Medical Association is calling on couples who have used in vitro fertilization to create human embryos to consider allowing another couple to adopt the children if they do not plan to implant and give birth to the embryos themselves.

It has been estimated that as many as 400,000 human embryos are now frozen in U.S. fertility clinics, awaiting implantation. The problem is, only a small fraction of these embryos are currently available for adoption. Biological parents often think that they will have the embryos implanted at a later time. But the embryos cannot live indefinitely in liquid nitrogen, and, after a period of years, they die.

"Not making a decision is the same as making a decision to destroy the embryos. (They) won’t last forever in liquid nitrogen," said Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, Director of the Southeastern Fertility Center. The Center oversees the National Embryo Donation Center, located on the campus of Baptist Hospital for Women in Knoxville, Tennessee.

"The Center offers life-honoring parents and prospective parents an ethical, compassionate path to bringing a new life into the world," Keenan said. "We are providing this option not only for couples in the United States, but hope to provide this service for couples in Europe as well."

According to Keenan, less than 10,000 embryos in U.S. fertility clinics are currently earmarked for donation to other couples, with about 10,000 others slated for death for the purposes of scientific research. The rest, some 380,000, belong to couples who say they plan to use the embryos — eventually.

But, Keenan says, the embryos may die before they get the chance.

"Some of them (the couples) think I could never give up my baby. (The baby) is too precious to give away and yet not too precious to let die in liquid nitrogen," Keenan said.

As a result, the Christian Medical Association developed the National Embryo Donation Center in an effort to provide compassionate solutions to the problems that arise when embryos are created, but not implanted.

The Executive Director of the Christian Medical Association, Dr. David Stevens, said, "Many couples who have used reproductive technology in an effort to have children are faced with the issue of embryos who will not be implanted and brought to birth. Thankfully, such couples now have the option of allowing another couple to receive their embryo(s) and to provide a loving home for any child that may result."

Stevens notes that couples who adopt embryos are able to experience childbirth in addition to the experience of raising an adopted child. "Embryo adoption is especially good because you’re saving a life…There is no better way to adopt than to adopt an embryo," Stevens said.

Stevens also notes that embryo adoption can be far less expensive than other forms of adoption, since health insurance may cover a portion of the costs.

"It is vital that we provide a high-quality, scientifically and ethically sound way to help ensure a loving home for these embryos, who have inestimable value in God’s sight," said Stevens.

Couples interested in donating or adopting embryos can contact the Embryo Donation Center at