Catholics may have wondered what to think when the Minister of Health approved the implementation of the Guidelines for Embryo Donation for Reproductive Purposes on 8 August.
The guidelines, prepared by the National Ethics Committee on Assisted Human Reproduction (NECAHR), mean that surplus embryos created by couples who have undergone IVF treatment, can now be donated to assist other infertile people have a child.
Previously, surplus embryos could only be left in storage or discarded.
John Kleinsman from the Nathaniel Centre examines The Moral Case for Embryo Adoption (The Nathaniel Report, Issue 16).
He informs us that, to date there has been no explicit pronouncement from The Holy See on embryo adoption, but it is reasonable to conclude that the adoption of frozen ‘surplus’ embryos for implantation has not been ruled out.
He concludes ’embryo adoption raises complex and serious ethical issues. There is no specific teaching on this matter. Nevertheless, it is possible to argue that it is morally permissible. It gives the genetic parents an avenue for exercising their parental responsibility; an option that, unlike destroying the embryos (whether directly or through research) or allowing them to die, is consistent with the unconditional respect due to human life.’
I think the Nathaniel Centre puts it in a way we can all relate to in their 2004 Submission to NECHAR on Embryo donation: ‘Giving people the option to donate embryos left over from infertility treatment is in accord with the dignity that belongs to such embryos. It is a gesture that upholds their fundamental right to life, a life already begun.’