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Fresh embryo donation for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research: the experiences and values of IVF couples asked to be embryo donors

Lookup NU author(s): Emerita Professor Erica Haimes, Dr Kenneth Taylor



This article reports on an investigation of the views of IVF couples asked to donate fresh embryos for research and contributes to the debates on: the acceptability of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, the moral status of the human embryo and embryo donation for research. A hypothesis-generating design was followed. All IVF couples in one UK clinic who were asked to donate embryos in 1 year were contacted 6 weeks after their pregnancy result. Forty four in-depth interviews were conducted. Interviewees were preoccupied with IVF treatment and the request to donate was a secondary consideration. They used a complex and dynamic system of embryo classification. Initially, all embryos were important but then their focus shifted to those that had most potential to produce a baby. At that point, 'other' embryos were less important though they later realise that they did not know what happened to them. Guessing that these embryos went to research, interviewees preferred not to contemplate what that might entail. The embryos that caused interviewees most concern were good quality embryos that might have produced a baby but went to research instead. 'The' embryo, the morally laden, but abstract, entity, did not play a central role in their decision-making. This study, despite missing those who refuse to donate embryos, suggests that debates on embryo donation for hESC research should include the views of embryo donors and should consider the social, as well as the moral, status of the human embryo.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Haimes E, Taylor K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Human Reproduction

Year: 2009

Volume: 24

Issue: 9

Pages: 2142-2150

Print publication date: 01/09/2009

Date deposited: 09/12/2009

ISSN (print): 0268-1161

ISSN (electronic): 1460-2350

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/humrep/dep124


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Funder referenceFunder name
070705/Z/03/ZWellcome Trust