LN – Frozen embryos: there are more and more and do not have a clear destination

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There are 52,000 cryopreserved, but many are abandoned and under current law they can only be used by their owners or given to third parties; A project seeks to regulate guard time and other legal gaps. Credit: Diego Spivacow / AFV

“I have frozen embryos for years. I don't know what to do with them. My daughter is already 5 years old, I'm a big mom and I'm not going to use them. For me it would be a relief and a joy that you can use them.”Marina told Silvina, after the long and heartfelt talk they had when they met at the house of some friends in common.

It was a year and a half ago. Today, Silvina Steinbaum, 44, is Joaquin’s mother, a four-month-old baby,
that was born thanks to an embryo donation made with the embryos that Marina had cryopreserved seven years ago and with whom she could not decide what to do. If it is not for the owners' own use, the assisted reproduction law – enacted in 2013 – only allows them to be donated to a third party and until he met Silvina and heard his story, he had not decided to do so.

According to data from the Argentine Society of Reproductive Medicine (Samer), there are around 52,000 cryopreserved embryos in the country, of which 42% have more than 10 years in that state and only less than 15% decide to donate them.

What to do with frozen embryos that have no destination? How many people know that there is the possibility of being parents by embryonation? What percentage of couples donate them? The specialists consulted by LA NACION agree that all these questions are difficult to answer because
there is a public record and a law that regulates the future of these embryos, which currently cannot be discarded or donated to science. And, precisely, one of the main problems is that many people stop paying for cryopreservation.


Assisted reproduction centers do not rule out embryos because there is a legal vacuum. A law is necessary because it would define the time limits for storage and what to do reliably with embryos, “explains Gustavo Martínez, an embryologist, vice president of the Latin American Network for Assisted Reproduction and director of Fertilis.

A law is necessary because it would define the time limits for storage and what to do reliably with embryos.

Gustavo Martínez, embryologist.

In April 2019,
a multiparty commission presented a draft Law on the Protection of Non-Implanted Embryos in the Chamber of Deputies to respond to social demand on this issue. There were several previous attempts, but all lost parliamentary status.

“The law always stopped when you wanted to reach a definition of embryo,” says Marisa Herrera, a doctor of law at the UBA and a researcher at Conicet. And he clarifies: “The Inter-American Court of Human Rights clearly states, in its ruling in the Artavia Murillo case, that
The embryo is not a person. It is also confirmed by the national assisted reproduction law, which nobody questioned as unconstitutional. “

Herrera believes that
If the current norm establishes the cryopreservation of embryos, their donation and the revocation of consent until before their transfer as forms of reproduction, it is because it is based on the idea that “the unimplanted embryo is not a person, since people are not cryopreserved, they don’t donate, much less revoke. ”

The implanted embryo is not a person, since people are not cryopreserved, not donated, much less revoked.

Marisa Herrera, Conicet.

However, bioethical positions that do consider the preimplantation human embryo as a person, reject the idea that they can be discarded or used for research.

Fulfill a dream

Silvina had done many fertilization treatments to be a mother, after having tried naturally, without results.
He had a strong desire to have a child and take a pregnancy, but the diagnosis was relentless: his eggs were no longer fertile. “It was a genetic duel for me. I claimed myself why I hadn't done it before, why I hadn't felt the desire to be a mother.
At that moment I felt that I was dying if I didn't get it, “ Silvina remembers today, with little Joaquin in her arms.

He wrote down on an adoption list, but discouraged it:
she was alone and the chances of adopting a newborn baby – which was what she wanted – are usually low. Silvina felt that every day that passed was one day less to start being a mother. “He made accounts: how old would he be when my son or daughter was 10 years old? Could he see his graduation from college? Would he have grandchildren?”
Ovodonation times are long because there are many more male than female donors“.


Silvina Steinbaum with her four-month-old son Joaquin, whom she could have thanks to an embryo donation process.
Silvina Steinbaum with her four-month-old son Joaquin, whom she could have thanks to an embryo donation process. Credit: Diego Spivacow / AFV

When Marina came into her life, she felt it as a miracle.
He left that meeting crying in excitement while driving his car. He did not sleep all night. A few days passed, but he immediately accepted the donation with much gratitude for “Marina's generosity and for the ability to understand her desire to be a mother.”

Time was fast: they met in mid-2018 and in January 2019, two of the three donated embryos were transferred.
Those months were necessary to comply with the donation documentation established by law and prepare Silvina's uterus for embryo implantation..

Marina and Silvina met in mid-2018 and in January 2019, two of the three donated embryos were transferred.

At two weeks, he confirmed his pregnancy and his world changed forever. He modified his house, his habits and his working life to prepare to receive Joaquin. She had a healthy and happy pregnancy, her family and her friends supported her and each visit was accompanied by a different friend. “All the people we go through an embryo donation,
First we have to overcome the genetic duel, then happiness comes. A son is building an emotional bond and today, Joaquín, it's all for me. I want this possibility to be known as another way to become parents, alone or as a couple. The State has to guarantee public policies so that everyone has access to this right, “says Silvina.

However, specialists agree that there is a lot of resistance of couples to donate their non-implanted embryos – although it is somewhat anonymous – and that making the decision is usually very stressful.
“Most prefer to discard them rather than donate them,” explains Sergio Papier, a specialist in reproductive medicine and director of Cegyr.

The State has to guarantee public policies so that everyone has access to this right.

Silvina Steinbaum

“They don't find it easy because they see him as a potential child.
An embryo is not a person, it is an embryo, but at the time of donation they consider it as a potential person and cannot solve it. There are even couples who, although they do not wish to have more children, prefer to use them to donate them, “he explains.
And, as in the case of Marina, most of those who do cheer up formed the embryos with gametes that were donated to them, so their genes are not involved.

Regulate and inform

The assisted reproduction law had a strong impact on the number of cycles practiced in fertility centers before and after its promulgation, according to the data collected by Samer.

Free access to the right to be parents opened a door to many couples who previously did not access due to financial constraint.
Until 2010, an average of 10,800 per year was practiced and, in 2017, 22,800 were registered. More than double.

In addition, 75% of these cycles are practiced in women over 35 years of age and this alarms the scientific society because
decreases the chance of success in the non-implanted embryos that remain from each fertilization to be donated.

75% of the cycles are practiced in women over 35 years.

“Donation of embryos also has to do with which model of couple or person you want to receive.
You have to evaluate the path traveled by that couple, what are their expectations and what implant capacity has the donated embryo according to the conservation time, age of the donor and the causes of their infertility“, clarifies Stella Lancuba, president of Samer and Medical director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine Research.

In this sense, Mariana Contreras, president of the Sumate a Dar Vida association, adds: “We talk a lot with those who approach the foundation about the need to be clear about what destination they will give to non-implanted embryos that result from their treatment of fertilization. We must be aware of the rights and obligations on this issue and I believe that the law comes to order them. ” This organization was formed 12 years ago with patients who needed to resort to assisted fertilization and fought for the law that was finally promulgated and, currently,
they support the embryo bill, because “it complements the previous norm.”

We must be aware of the rights and obligations on this issue and I believe that the law comes to order them.

Mariana Contreras.

While Silvina breastfeeds Joaquin, sitting in her apartment, they look at each other with infinite love. Despite the controversies, specialists emphasize the importance of publicly speaking about the subject because most people are unaware that it is possible to make an embryo viable. Therefore, they warn that discussing and approving the Law for the Protection of Unimplanted Embryos is very necessary to heal all these gray areas that remain around frozen embryos.
There is an indisputable reality: the number increases year by year and it is urgent to regulate your destiny.

A bill that seeks to regulate and clarify gray dots

The bill for the Protection of Non-Implanted Embryos was presented by an interparty commission in April 2019 in the Chamber of Deputies of the Nation.
“We hope that the Executive Power has the political decision to give it parliamentary status to discuss it,” says Carla Carrizo, national deputy for the City of Buenos Aires and one of the signatories of the project. “The most important point of this bill is that
regulates uncertainty regarding a very personal right of couples and individuals about what to do with frozen embryos“, details the deputy.

In addition, he explains that it is necessary because
“an answer must be given to these families and to all citizens as in the new Civil Code we commit ourselves, through a transitional clause, to define what to do”. And he adds: “Given the regulatory vacuum, today there are trials among patients, social works and fertility centers for this issue.”

Given the regulatory gap, today there are trials among patients, social works and fertility centers for this issue.

Carla Carrizo

What do you propose?

  • It seeks to limit the number of oocytes to fertilize to reduce the number of embryos to cryopreserve.
  • It prohibits the commercialization of embryos, the generation of embryos to be used without reproductive or therapeutic purposes and the extraction and post-mortem fertilization of genetic material, in accordance with the provisions of articles 55 and 56 of the Civil and Commercial Code.
  • It establishes as mandatory parental consent on the fate of the embryos. And it details that they can be used by their owners for subsequent treatments, be donated for reproductive purposes, be donated for research purposes or that it may be decided to cease their cryopreservation.
  • It puts a maximum period of 10 years for cryopreservation. This would prevent a large number of embryos with no destination, such as there are in the country today. It is one of the measures adopted in other parts of the world.
  • Forces to create a file of each donor.
  • It also regulates the situation of separation of the embryonic titular couples as well as the cases of death.
  • Regulates the use of embryos for research.

. (tagsToTranslate) Frozen embryos: there are more and more and do not have a clear destination – LA NACION


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