Nation's Fertility Clinics Struggle With a Growing Number of Abandoned Embryos

It is not known precisely how many frozen embryos have been abandoned in the more than 500 fertility clinics in the United States

Thousands of fertility doctors throughout the country are grappling with what to do with the embryos cast aside by former patients, many of whom worked for months, even years, to conceive, NBC News reports. The dilemma is an unanticipated, and unwelcome, byproduct of the considerable advances made in assisted reproductive technology in recent years, causing concern among bioethicists, attorneys, religious groups and the medical community.

“Twenty-one percent of our embryos have been abandoned,” Dr. Craig Sweet said.

The reasons patients choose to abandon embryos vary, he said, though an internal study at his clinic suggests the number of children a patient already has and finances play roles. Storage fees for frozen embryos typically run from $500 to $1,000 a year, and can climb even higher, depending upon the clinic.

Since embryos are eggs that have been fertilized — and therefore have a potential for life — the dilemma over what to do with those that have been abandoned, and who should assume ownership of them, is a thorny one.

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