Adoption for the birth of criopreserved and residual embryos obtained by medically assisted procreation MAP

18 November 2005


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The Italian Committee for Bioethics (ICB) expressed its opinion regarding Medically Assisted Procreation (MAP) a long time ago, in the 1994 document titled ICB’s Opinion on the Techniques of Medically Assisted Procreation. It is a document in which all the doubts but also all the expectations raised by assisted procreation are discussed; an open text, inconclusive according to some of its critics, in which the most divergent opinions are presented to the reader in an essentially aseptic manner. Since then, the ICB has not tackled the issue again, as it had no reason to do so; there have not been truly new bioethical problems regarding this topic (except cloning reproduction, an issue to which the ICB has immediately dedicated its due attention). Also, the ICB has not found any reason to express its opinion again during the long years that have been necessary to the Italian Parliament to finally approve the first organic law on the matter, the Law No. 40/2004.

However, once this law was approved, the ICB immediately felt that one of its most significant provisions, which forbids the destruction of each single embryo produced by MAP, including those that are cryopreserved and abandoned, was significantly and in some way incoherent. This incoherence does not regard the stringent legal protection of embryonic life: this provision could be considered by some excessive and/or ethically questionable (not however by the person writing these lines), but without a doubt is not incoherent. The point, rather, is another; the law does not say anything about the future destiny of frozen and abandoned embryos, leaving us to assume at most that they should be preserved in their cryopreserved state until the moment of their natural extinction (a moment that, currently, science cannot predict).

We must therefore recognise that L.40 needs to be integrated on this point. If embryos are fully fledged human lives it is right to give them the chance to be born, even through that practice, for some objectively perturbing, that the ICB has called Adoption for Birth (AFB). The right to be born must prevail on any ethical and legal consideration against it, although they highlight the not small problems deriving from this solution.

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