First Conference On Embryo Placement Sparks National Discussion

January 29, 2009 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

The growing debate over the placement of embryos moved to center stage last year at the first national conference held on the topic.

In her Pediatric Ethics, Issues, & Commentary column in the November-December 2008 issue of Pediatric Nursing, Anita J. Catlin examines this controversial issue and outlines the many moral, legal, ethical and spiritual questions that remain unanswered.

At the “Emerging Issues in Embryo Adoption and Donation” conference, held in May and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, child adoption advocates, property attorneys, ethicists, representatives of religious and adoption organizations and donor/recipient couples held open discussions.

On the legal side, Catlin, who attended the conference, explains that embryos “are not live children, and because only live children can be legally adopted in the U.S., the transfer of embryos from one family to another is considered a transfer of property.” Christian speakers felt the embryos were children in “cold storage” and stated that using the embryos for research would be a “holocaust” of 500,000 lives. On the other side, couples who had implanted embryos and successfully given birth described their joy as new parents.

A primary focus of the conference, Catlin writes, was on use of the word “adoption” and all it implies. Speaker Thomas C. Atwood, President and CEO of the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) said he was deeply concerned about the impact embryo placement would have on other children waiting for adoption and posed that the “highly controversial, complex, and imperfect” policies and practices of embryo transfer put it in an entirely different category than the well-established adoption process. He recommended using the term “embryo placement for pregnancy and parenting,” or “embryo placement” for short, as a preferable neutral term instead of “adoption,” due to the legal and moral controversies and to avoid harming “the precious institution of adoption.”

Catlin suggests careful consideration of Atwood’s and others’ questions in the future, but believes embryo placement is “morally possible.”

“Issues and Ethics Related to Embryo Placement: A National Discussion”

Anita J. Catlin, DNSc, FNP, FAAN
Pediatric Nursing, November-December 2008;



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