Fertility Network UK
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The outcome of unused embryos - moral and ethical dilemma!

Hi everyone,

Well we are set to start our first IVF cycle in about 2.5 weeks. We have just been given the forms to sign our consent for embryo freezing following our fresh cycle, something which we want to do so that we can have them available for any future cycles we may need or decide to do. Part of this form is to decide what we wish to have done with any unused embryos left over in the end. As many of you probably know, we have the following choices: to donate our embryos for science/training purposes, donating them to other couples who cannot conceive, or discarding them.

I'm feeling quite conflicted about what is ethically the right option, especially considering my husband's and my view that life begins at conception. We both share our Christian faith so this is a factor also. I am just wondering what all of your views on these options are? What have you decided to do with your IVF cycles?

I'm just gathering opinions and perspectives at the moment more than asking for advice. Im hoping through hearing what others have thought about, it may make things clearer for me.

Thanks in advance!

10 Replies

I can't personally say I remember this particular thing on the forms we signed.

I remember we said:

Yes to using them for IVF

Yes to freezing them for 5 years which can be extended at that time

No to research

Nothing about the other things you have mentioned?!


So what will happen at the end of the 5 years, or should you choose to extend them, at the end of that time?

They've asked this in case of death or mental incapacity, so that they can follow through with our wishes. (By the way if used for other couples that's another form to fill out). But I suppose it's just got me thinking. If we don't choose now then we are still going to have to choose sometime down the road. If they're not being used for research, and they're not given to other couples, then they're just discarded. If we kept paying the fees for storage every year, hoping to never be faced with the reality of it, then still after we die they will just be discarded. This is plaguing me!


In our case, I can't see that we will end up with lots frozen to be honest. We've had 2 fresh cycles and got 1 frozen from that.

I'm sure they told us we could change the form as and when we wanted, so that might be worth asking them?

The whole IVF journey is "what if"...you can drive yourself insane!!

Only you can decide what you'd want to happen X


Hi my husband & I opted for donating to another couple. Our thought process was that if there is a child of ours out there completing someone's else's family then that gave us a great feeling.

Good luck to you on your journey x


Hi hopefulmamma

At our clinic were only given the option to freeze additional embryos for 10 years and to donate any unsuitable for transfer to science/research (due to damage/very poor quality etc) There was no mention of donating any to other couples, sorry if this isn't all that helpful, I know clinics can all be so different. Good luck whatever you decide x


We opted to help out other couples in anyway that we could! I kind of feel like we have only been given this opportunity to have children through other kind people that have been willing to do the same so I want to give something back! Good luck with what you decide, it's absolutely your decision and nobody can make it for you!x


I can't remember what we ticked, but feel the same way about preserving life once created. Although we wouldn't chose to go through ivf again if we were lucky enough to get a bfp, we have both said we will transfer all remaining embryos that are frozen as we don't want them to be destroyed. It is unusual to have lots frozen if they take Them to 5 days. I think only about 50% of people have any to feeze at all. Don't know if that helps, but good luck xx


We have 5 excellent or very good embryos frozen from our first go. Hopefully the one we have on board at the moment will stick around but regardless, we will use all 5 frozen ones. I absolutely couldn't destroy them and I don't think we've even been given the option of donating them, though this is something I wouldn't feel comfortable with anyway.


We did not have the option to donate, but we certainly agreed for our embryos to be used for research/training. The technology that we are all counting on to give us the thing we want the most in our lives is only possible because of people donating their embryos for research and training, and it cannot improve or progress further without them, so, personally, I would feel quite hypocritical if I didn't agree to mine being used in this way.


When I was an egg donor we had this dilemma. As the vitrification process wasn't available then, we decided the eggs would be fertilised and the resultant embryos frozen. I agreed to any unused eggs being used for research, but not any embryos. It wasn't technically my call, as the embies would belong to my friend and her hubby. She and I felt the same though, that life begins at conception, so it wasn't a difficult decision. I understand what MonKak means, but it depends really on when you feel that life begins. Hope this helps xx


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