In the United States, it is estimated that over 500,000 frozen embryos “are not used by families wishing to participate in in-vitro fertilisation”. In France, activity reports have not been updated since 2010 and, based on a Biomedicine Agency audit, the registers have not even been digitised.
More recently, these embryos have been available for sale at the price of 20,000 dollars in the United States to couples suffering from double infertility. This constitutes “a new product on the market” involving “a new type of slavery,” explained Doctor Alexandra Henrion-Caude, geneticist and Inserm Research Director at Necker Hospital, the only difference being that slaves knew their origins. “In this case, we are denying these human embryos humanity. This makes them the subject of an additional offer in the economic market place”. “How will a child view the people who bought him or her for $20,000, even if the child is much loved?” wonders Alexandra Henrion-Claude.
“We are all implicated and it’s obviously not a specialist issue,” she stresses. “As a scientist, jointly responsible for my community but also as a mother, I am suffering from our indifference towards these millions of embryos whose lives are cryopreserved. So aren’t we responsible for these lives? Shouldn’t we think about these lives that are artificially ‘paused’? They could be said to be in a sort of ‘refrigerated coma’”.
Whilst these embryos are sold in the United States, the Biomedicines Agency under the control of the Ministry for Health is banning gamete donation through a radio campaign in France.
“In other words, even if we are in the awkward position of managing these hundreds of thousands of embryos in their containers, we are still capable of generating more … additional aberration”.