The end of an embryo: what should we call that?
On the nuances of leftover embryos.
2 minute 30 second read.
Before I start this week's issue, I just wanted to let you know that a change is coming to HeyReprotech. From the outset, I mentioned that someday some posts would be available only to paying subscribers. I anticipate that the first paying-subscriber-only post will come next week. Thereafter, about every second post will be available in full to paying subscribers only. Non-paying subscribers will still get a preview of these paywalled posts, as well as the two full open-access posts each month.
If you've been thinking about becoming a paying subscriber, but just haven't got around to it, now would be a good time. If you feel strongly about supporting this independent work, I promise to put your paid subscription to good use. If you are unable to be a paying subscriber at this time, I want you to know that I welcome you here to enjoy the twice-monthly public posts and to continue to be part of this important conversation.
When embryos are no longer needed
A recent discussion, called "Donate, destroy or delay? When IVF embryos are no longer needed for treatment," presented by the UK's Progress Educational Trust, explored challenges around deciding what to do with excess embryos. Watch the entire discussion, available on YouTube.
What I want to highlight today, however, are two of the interesting questions raised by audience members after the formal talks were done. (The Q&A starts at minute 46:05.)
One question was about the options available to families dealing with embryos they no longer need. Usually those options include things like donating them to others, donating them to research or discarding them. But someone asked this: Why can't patients take their embryos home with them and allow them to perish in a respectful way of their choosing?
I had not actually thought about that as an option, but it strikes me as an appealing one. Just as I could not bring myself to discard my daughters' placentas — they are buried under a cherry tree planted in their honour — I believe I would have trouble casually discarding an embryo. There is something oddly sacred about reproductive tissue. Being able to mark an embryo's passing with a ceremony might help a person to grieve. Interestingly, although in some instances fetal tissue from abortions can be taken home, the UK law stands firm on not allowing embryos the same fate.
Another question was about language — and it challenged the very title of the talk, suggesting that "destroy" is an insensitive word to use in this context. But what is the appropriate wording to use?
Here are some terms that are in use today:
"allow to perish"
"remove from storage"
Everyone agreed the words we use are important, but there was no consensus on what they should be. Euphemisms are often unhelpful. Sometimes direct is best. We need to hear more from patients.
Thoughts? Send me a note here or on Twitter @HeyReprotech
Joanne Delange. "Donate, Destroy or Delay? When IVF Embryos Are No Longer Needed for Treatment." BioNews. 05 October, 2020.
Thank you for reading HeyReprotech. Please share this post with your friends.
Support HeyReprotech’s independent journalism. If you’re not already a paying subscriber, become one today.
Check out the HeyReprotech archive.