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What is the Fate of Leftover Frozen Embryos?
Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of embryos have accumulated in fertility clinics throughout the country, some awaiting transfer but many literally frozen in time as parents ask themselves questions few among us ever consider with such immediacy: When does life begin? What does "life" mean, anyway? In a recent survey of 58 couples, researchers from the University of California in San Francisco found that 72 percent were undecided about the fate of their stored embryos. In another study last year of more than 1,000 fertility patients from nine clinics, 20 percent of couples who wanted no more children said they planned or expected to keep their embryos frozen indefinitely. Couples have held on to embryos for five years or more, waiting on an epiphany that never comes. Nadya Suleman, the now-famous mother of octuplets, told NBC News that she had all eight of her embryos implanted because she couldn't bear to dispose of any of them.
"When you're pouring your money, your heart, and your soul into creating an embryo and creating a life, the last thing you want to think about is how you're going to dispose of it," says Anne Drapkin Lyerly, M.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center. Until the storage fee comes due. At that point, couples generally have to choose among four options: