Frozen in Time: Catholic Ethicists Discuss the Fate of the Estimated 1 Million Human Embryos on Ice| National Catholic Register

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

One of the grave evils of the IVF industry is that ‘Rip Van Winkle’ human embryos are trapped in suspended animation.

The Catholic Church has long condemned the IVF process and the production of these embryos, but those warnings have gone unheeded, and there are now an estimated 1 million frozen embryos in the U.S. alone.
The Catholic Church has long condemned the IVF process and the production of these embryos, but those warnings have gone unheeded, and there are now an estimated 1 million frozen embryos in the U.S. alone. (photo: Corona Borealis / Shutterstock)

Lauretta Brown NationJanuary 17, 2023

Imagine learning that you were conceived a year or two after the woman who gave birth to you and that you had been trapped in a clinic freezer for three decades before coming into the world. This is now the fate of twins who were born in October 2022, after being conceived in 1992 through in vitro fertilization (IVF), frozen as embryos and then adopted.

Philip and Rachel Ridgeway adopted twins Lydia and Timothy, in addition to four children conceived naturally. The Christian couple felt embryo adoption was in God’s plan for them, telling CNN that they wanted “the ones that had been waiting the longest.”

One fertility specialist likened these babies to Rip Van Winkle, the villager who slumbered in the forest for 20 years in the famous short story by Washington Irving. However, these little Rip Van Winkles faced a more perilous path to awakening, as many embryos created through IVF are discarded, used for medical experimentation, or die in the thawing-and-implantation process. Some have even died due to mechanical problems with the freezer, as occurred in one clinic in Cleveland.

The Catholic Church has long condemned the IVF process and the production of these embryos, but those warnings have gone unheeded, and there are now an estimated 1 million frozen embryos in the U.S. alone — giving rise to profound and continuing moral dilemmas. 

In 1996, Pope John Paul II made an “appeal to the conscience of the world’s scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted, taking into account that there seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of ‘frozen’ embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons.” 

In the 2008 document Dignitas Personae, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith addressed the question of what to do with the existing frozen embryos, rejecting “proposals to use these embryos for research or for the treatment of disease” because they treat the embryos “as mere ‘biological material’ and result in their destruction.”

They also rejected the proposal “that these embryos could be put at the disposal of infertile couples” because the practice “would also lead to other problems of a medical, psychological and legal nature.” 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote in the 1987 document Donum Vitae that even an IVF and embryo-transfer procedure that is “free of any compromise with the abortive practice of destroying embryos and with masturbation remains a technique which is morally illicit because it deprives human procreation of the dignity which is proper and connatural to it.”

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Frozen in Time: Catholic Ethicists Discuss the Fate of the Estimated 1 Million Human Embryos on Ice| National Catholic Register

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