Frozen Out

What to do with those extra embryos.

Jim and Susanne are facing a modern moral dilemma. Desperate for a baby after struggling with infertility for eight years, they agreed to try in vitro fertilization with embryo transfer (IVF-ET). Multiple eggs were surgically harvested from Susanne's ovaries and then fertilized with Jim's sperm in the lab.

Three of the resulting embryos were implanted in Susanne's uterus in the hope that at least one would grow into a baby. The seven remaining embryos were frozen (cryopreserved) for later implantation attempts, if needed.

Surprise—Jim and Susanne are the proud parents of triplets, two girls and a boy. According to the Center for Applied Reproductive Science, triplets are unusual but not unheard of. Typically when three embryos are implanted, would-be parents can expect at best one baby. There is about a 20 percent chance of twins and a 5 percent chance of triplets, depending on the age of the couple.

Jim and Susanne are ecstatic with their triple blessing—and a bit frantic. Believing they have a full quiver, they desire no more children. They wonder, What do we do with the human life we have left on ice?


Jim and Susanne are not alone. More than 400,000 frozen embryos are stored in clinics across the United States. No one knows how long frozen embryos retain their viability, but children have been born from embryos stored five to ten years.

A significant number of these embryos belong to believers. Many couples like Jim and Susanne have considered donating the embryos to the clinic storing them. But there is a hitch. The clinic offers no guarantee that recipients of their embryos will share Jim and Susanne's Christian faith.

"As Christians," Jim says, "it would grieve us to think that children we helped bring ...

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Christianity Today
Frozen Out
hide thisJuly July

In the Magazine

July 2004

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