The Catholic Church opposes in-vitro fertilization (IVF) because it artificially separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the conjugal act. Because of the low success rate of IVF, oftentimes numerous embryos are fertilized with some of them implanted and the rest cryopreserved. Thus, IVF has resulted in an ethical issue that the Catholic Church does not have a clear response to, which is what to do with undesired cryopreserved embryos that resulted from the IVF process. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in its 2008 instruction on certain bioethical questions entitled Dignitas Personae, commented on three proposals on what to do with them and noted that the situation of the thousands of cryopreserved embryos “cannot be resolved”. However, even before the issuance of Dignitas Personae, there continues to develop a rich debate regarding the third proposal of embryo adoption, which is understood as the gestation and raising of embryos by a woman who is not biologically related to them.
The question is “Is embryo adoption a morally acceptable action?”.
This thesis will build the case that embryo adoption can be moral by suggesting that the Catholic Church’s sanctity of life teaching and theology of adoption can apply to cryopreserved embryos. In which case, they must be made available for adoption rather than be thawed and medically discarded. Furthermore, this thesis will respond to objections against embryo adoption which claim that it is cooperation with the IVF industry and a violation of the conjugal act. It will argue, instead, that embryo adoption is neither in cooperation with the IVF industry nor a violation of the conjugal act. This thesis will also consider a case study of a couple who adopted cryopreserved embryos because of the importance of human experience in deciding moral issues. Finally, it will recommend pastoral guidelines for the morality of embryo adoption.
Lamentably, numerous embryos are cryopreserved each year and later on unwanted by their biological parents. Embryo adoption may provide relief for some of them.