Egg ethics II

Suppose a couple, having problems with fertility, decides to try IVF as a means of having children. For the sake of the hypothetical, let’s say initial fertilization goes very well and the couple ends up with 30 viable embryos. After 8 pregnancies with three embryos implanted each time, the couple is exhausted and now has 24 children. They are done having kids.

What does the couple do with the six remaining embryos? You make the call.


  1. Note to Ronan: eating the embryos is not an option.

  2. Alright then.

  3. Give them to an experienced mother to be raised in a loving home.

    I’m thinking here, of course, of the OctoMom.

  4. They should have stopped at 3. But since they obviously don’t care about raising their kids, they should go ahead and get the last 6.

  5. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    God never gives us more than we can handle. If he allowed 30 embryos to become viable, then that means the couple should have 30 children. They might be tired, but if they fast and pray, and read their scriptures, God will give them the strength they need to accomplish what he has so clearly commanded them to do.

  6. Ebay?

  7. Moniker Challenged says:

    Traditionally, they leave them in cryogenic storage and quit paying rent. At this point, the lab may or may not have the legal right to dispose of them as they see fit. If they don’t, they eat the cost of storage until the end of time. (I’m getting my information from the unerringly accurate Newsweek—at least I think that’s where I read it).
    Since all the good responses are already taken, (#4 and #5) I say let someone adopt them or use them for stem cell research before their expiration date passes and they’re a useless bio hazard.

  8. would anyone really judge them if they decide to discard them seeing as the church doesn’t have an official stance on the matter? discarding them may be the right choice for this couple but may be the wrong choice for another couple. who are we to judge their decision?

  9. Steve Evans says:

    Herbert, what’s the difference between discarding embryos and abortion?

  10. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    oh Steve.

  11. yeah, let’s make sure that a woman’s egg will always be impregnated. That means from the first egg that comes into existence to the very last one. No egg should be lost. Any woman that allows any of her eggs to go to waste is killing a life!

    Oh wait… in general 12 eggs are lost every year from every single woman over a certain age. What a waste. What was God thinking?

  12. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    oh Daniel.

    egg =/= embryo

  13. oops.

    My point is still the same. Discard and move on.

  14. Steve Evans says:

    Daniel, your point is not the same at all, but I will nevertheless discard it and move on.

  15. Steve,

    My point is that in this world there is so much waste of reproductive material that there isn’t any worry about six more being discarded.

  16. Steve Evans says:

    Too late, I already discarded your point. Rehashing it won’t work, especially since you continue to confuse embyros with “reproductive material.”

  17. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Perhaps they should bring the eggs to Primary and give one to each Sunbeam.

  18. #5 is dangerous thinking. I think Kat, that you confuse use the term “allow” instead of “commanded”, and I think you use it erroneously. Lots of things happen in this life that God doesn’t “command” to occur. People are murdered, terrible accidents happen, good things happen as well….. but to think that God is behind everything can be a faith breaker and a submission that free-will doesn’t exist. Just because we come into a situation doesn’t mean God made it that way. One could argue if God wanted them to have 30 children, they wouldn’t have to go through IVF. Just because He knows every hair on our head, doesn’t mean he takes the time to make each one grow. (He set the hair-growing molecules to function long ago and gets to watch.) If we all took every thing that happened to us as a sign or a commandment, we’d all be pretty confused and run a life contradictory to our beliefs.

  19. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:


    dude, I was kidding.

  20. haha. sorry, new here. i suppose iknow too many people, unfortuneately, that actually think this way. 30 kids couldn’t possibly be too many. thanks kathryn.

  21. Latter-day Guy says:

    While I’m not sure about the theological implications, it isn’t uncommon for a woman to feel very conflicted about saving/destroying extra embryos. In light of this, if a couple does not want to get pregnant again, it might be psychologically helpful to undergo what is called a “compassionate transfer,” implanting the remaining embryos at a time when there is very little chance of her conceiving, basically mimicking an early miscarriage.

  22. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    dan, you and I must know the same people. :)

  23. It’s a tough call- I mean, if I had preserved embryos, it would be impossible to look at my living, breathing children and not imagine the possibility contained within those embryos. They are not “reproductive” excess. They are fertilized eggs, containing my and my spouses DNA, which has already created 24 living, beautiful children. The morality on this does not easily resolve itself.

    Which all goes to say, I have no idea what I would do, but whatever I chose, it would not be an easy decision.

  24. 9. “What’s the difference between discarding embryos and abortion?”

    Steve, you obviously know more than most people on this subject. Isn’t a fertilized egg implanted with less than a week’s development, roughly equivalent to what most people call “three weeks pregnant”? So, just pondering here: The difference might be the ability to survive and to continue developing without further medical intervention? Implantation status? You have to take action to kill an implanted fetus and no action is required to kill an unimplanted one?

    I’m a “brainwaves = life” pro-lifer myself, so as to the question posed by the OP, I’d say discard as desired. Give to a needy family. Allow the facility to dispose of them. The world is an imperfect place. Many, many more embryos are conceived than ever find cozy, warm endometrium in which to implant.

  25. I find this a very interesting question. I guess what I find so interesting is that it even needs to be asked at all. To my mind, this couple should implant as many embryos as they want children, in as many pregnancies as they see fit. Advances in medicine, I believe, are a part of Heavenly Father’s plan to help us help ourselves. I don’t believe any moral line is crossed by not implanting all of the embryos. I’m morally opposed to abortion as a method of birth control (ie: using it to “get out of” a pregnancy irresponsibly entered into), but even church leaders acknowledge that there is a time when abortion may be acceptable (I’ve always heard in cases of rape, incest, or where the health of the mother is risk). Even so, I would in no way equate discarding unimplanted embryos with abortion.
    These are just my opinions- I’m neither a religious nor an academic scholar, just an average, reasonably educated member of the church, but I have a hard time understanding why people get hung up on issues like these.

  26. Hear, hear, Jami. Much better than I said it.

  27. To bear all 24 children to term would be such a statistical anomaly, that I must say these hypothetical parents can do pretty much whatever the h*ll they want, because they are superheroes or aliens in disguise.

  28. This one is easy: Balut!

  29. Latter-Day Guy, that is so interesting. Do people really do that? It sounds basically like discarding the embryo in a way that makes you feel better about doing it – which is totally psychological. It doesn’t change the moral implications one way or another, IMO. I find that really interesting.

  30. It makes me wonder what other things we just do to make ourselves feel better when we are conflicted.

  31. Glenn Smith says:

    For the record:

    Harold B. Lee, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney, “Policies and Procedures: Statement on Abortion,” New Era, Apr 1973, 29

    In view of a recent decision of the United States Supreme Court, we feel it necessary to restate the position of the Church on abortion in order that there be no misunderstanding of our attitude.

    The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother. Even then it should be done only after counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation through prayer.

    Abortion must be considered one of the most revolting and sinful practices in this day, when we are witnessing the frightening evidence of permissiveness leading to sexual immorality.

    Members of the Church guilty of being parties to the sin of abortion must be subjected to the disciplinary action of the councils of the Church as circumstances warrant. In dealing with this serious matter, it would be well to keep in mind the word of the Lord stated in the 59th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 6, “Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.” [D&C 59:6]

    As to the amenability of the sin of abortion to the laws of repentance and forgiveness, we quote the following statement made by President David O. McKay and his counselors, Stephen L Richards and J. Reuben Clark, Jr., which continues to represent the attitude and position of the Church:

    “As the matter stands today, no definite statement has been made by the Lord one way or another regarding the crime of abortion. So far as is known, he has not listed it alongside the crime of the unpardonable sin and shedding of innocent human blood. That he has not done so would suggest that it is not in that class of crime and therefore that it will be amenable to the laws of repentance and forgiveness.”

    This quoted statement, however, should not, in any sense, be construed to minimize the seriousness of this revolting sin.

    The First Presidency
    Harold B. Lee
    N. Eldon Tanner
    Marion G. Romney
    The Church Newsroom site, in correcting an newspaper article misstatement on stem-cell research declares:
    “””Fact: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no official position on the moment that human life begins.”””

    Embryonic Stem-Cell Research, Lincoln Journal Star 26 May 2005
    Brigham Young, General Conference, October, 1876
    “””When the body is prepared, at the proper time, the spirit enters the tabernacle, and all the world of mankind in their reflections and researches must come to this conclusion, for the fact is they can come to no other—that when the mother feels life there is an evidence that the spirit from heaven has entered the tabernacle.””””

    Pres. Young said that the spirit has already entered the body when the mother feels life in her. He doesn’t say that that is the exact moment when the spirit enters – just that it already has.
    Personally, {This may be weird and very wrong. I don’t know the real answer} I suspect that the sperm upon ejaculation remains an extension of the man and the egg similarly a part of the woman, and at some point in time after the sperm enters the egg, after the embryo is implanted, when the fetus has developed sufficiently, the spirit enters the new body. At what stage that is, I don’t know. But until that time, the embryo is part of both parents enroute to becoming a “living soul”. This strange idea explains for me why non-marriage sexual activity is such a serious sin*. A person sends out part of his body, and maybe a portion of spirit {to temporarily maintain life in the womb until the child’s spirit arrives). Applying this idea to the issue at hand, perhaps the embryo, at the pre-implantation stage is not yet a “child” but still part of the parents. And the embryo disposal decision may be handled much as the abortion decision is made, with priesthood counsel and divine confirmation.

    Anyone with better information on the matter may correct me.

    *Because all life is maintained via priesthood power, we offend God with misuse of life-giving functions.

  32. If they are in fact still part of the parents’ souls, as Glenn suggests, then the answer is simple: make lots and lots of horcruxes.

  33. Is it too late to turn Anton’s Key?

  34. I have two wonderful children both conceived through a process called ICSI (this is where the sperm is injected directly into the egg). Here in the UK there is a law whereby only 6 (if I remember correctly)embryos can be planted into the mother. We had 19 in the first instance, by the time it came to planting them it went down to 8, we had to discard 2 of them.

    There can be life threatening consequences to the mother if multiple embryos are replanted. We both felt uncomfortable about potential offspring seemingly being casually discarded like some email on my Blackberry!

    We sought the advice of our stake president (who is also a personal friend) on the next day he had a meeting with one of the seventy where he broght the question up. Although we knew we had little choice about discarding embryos we both wanted some qualification (it was an emotional time). The response was one of love and compassion from the member of the seventy which put our minds at ease considerably.

    We did have some emryos frozen but others were discarded and although I wonder “what if” I don’t feel guilt.

  35. #9 Steve, I think there is a big difference.

    Sorry for the delay in between posts, it was 1 in the morning when I posted the original post.

    This was actually my first time posting something on the blog since I took an interest on it (you got a good thing going on here btw).

    I took a particular interest in this entry because my wife an I have been trying to have a baby for over 18 months now and we are very aware that we may have to go through such procedure (or similar) in the near future.

    As I understand it, the IVF procedure in itself involves discarding embryos that a person doesn’t deem perfect (with a good chance of being used). Is every fertilized egg that has begun splitting a person? Is there a difference if the discarding fertilized eggs call is made by us or by some lab tech who just feels that this particular embryo only has a 50% chance if we are the ones who elected to start the procedure to begin with? If its wrong, are we at fault then, are they at fault, even if we didn’t pull the trigger (or maybe we did)?

    As you probably know, the only church policy on IVF is under the category of semen or egg being donated from someone other than the couple to which it is discouraged. but couples won’t be judged by leaders for choosing to do so. no mention of IVF where donors are the original couple. (which is very unfortunate)

    My guess (and we can only guess, and make judgement calls based on how we feel) is that until the church has a specific policy which states that discarding embryos is the same as terminating a pregnancy it will be a personal call and we don’t be judged by our leaders for it and definitely shouldn’t be judged by others for doing so. I am confident we will be judge by the Lord if we have a witness that the poor embryos should not be discarded but we decide to do it anyway but this judgement will come as with any personal revelation that we may receive and decide not to follow.

    But that’s the same with every little specific thing that the church doesn’t have a policy on isn’t it? Is it wrong to kill a man(wicked or not) so that an entire people may have the scriptures? Is it wrong for me to defend myself from you if I feel you are threatening me?

    As it stands right now, I would say without guilt: ‘discard them’. But of course I’m not in the situation where I have to actually make that call, so I can’t know for sure.

    Either way, life is good, spirits are getting bodies and I’m sure these will grow up to be loved by their parents dearly. I know I’m looking forward to that.


  36. #31. I agree (but again, its a personal decision).
    remember that we have scriptural record that shows that a spirit of a baby wasn’t inside the body all the way up to the night before that baby was born.
    Either way, we don’t know all things.


  37. re: 33


    But to be sure, I’d check the toilet water tanks in the clinic in about 9 months time.

    Oh, I’ve said too much. I feel a headache coming on…

  38. Herbert (36) – I assume you are referring to 3 Nephi 1:12-14. I know at least one apostle who stongly believes that the voice heard there by Nephi was an angel speaking by what has been termed “divine investiture of authority.” Or it could have been the Holy Ghost. Or it could have actually been Christ’s voice. Whatever the case may be, I don’t know that those verses are definitive proof that Christ’s spirit was not in its fetal tabernacle up until the night before his birth.

  39. Maybe he was speaking from the womb.

  40. Twins/Triplets in gestation = Wombmates.

  41. John Mansfield says:

    You better just hope that none of those embryos is Charles Xavier’s twin sister.

  42. Have the embryos adopted and make sure you track the success rate so they don’t accidently marry your kids.

  43. Steve Evans says:

    John, as you know Cassandra never really existed.

  44. And if one of the embryos consumes another, put it in embryo prison for third degree manslaughter (may be difficult to establish the requisite mens rea for first degree murder).

  45. John Mansfield says:

    But Steve, we’re talking here about a family with eight sets of triplets.

  46. Once she has gone through 8 pregnancies of triplets how young is she? young enough to really be pregnant again? not likely. You don’t start IVF until you’ve tried a bit…IVF is expensive every time, so they’d have to save up..not to mention pay off the hospital bills from 24 nicu stays from their premature triplets times 8. Let’s say they get marriad at 18 because hey this is BCC…they start IVF when she’s 20…8 pregnancies-time to recover, (you do realize this is probably 8 c/s?)…let’s give her 3 years in between which is quick for triplet…she’s already 42 at the youngest….

    so besides age AND number of C/s AND sanity and finances….what in the world?

    why did they have 30 viable to begin with?
    I’m with portia, they’re super human…let’s clone them and kill of the rest of humanity and start over.

  47. Donate them to science.

    All those Saturday’s Warriors up there can wait for the next bus.

  48. The obvious answer? Give the couple their own reality TV show and let the audience decide.

  49. Should I be worried that before I saw any of the comments (checking BCC in google reader) my brain’s natural response was, “Eat them!”