A Working Group of the Role of the Church Committee
Working Paper Number 2
In response to a query by one of its members the Role of the Church Committee asked the Working Group to consider its attitude to zygote freezing. The Working Group drafted the following statement which was subsequently accepted by the Role of the Church Committee in March 1997 (amended slightly in March 1998).
It is natural for married couples to want to have children but sadly, in 10-15% of couples, this is not possible because of infertility on the part of one or other partner. In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) offers hope to many of these, particularly those with more difficult or complex problems and gives a success rate of about 20%. Current medical opinion is that best pregnancy rates follow the retrieval of many ova (eggs) which on fertilisation by the male sperm produce many zygotes (maybe 10 or more). If all of these are replaced, the chances of pregnancy are high but multiple pregnancies, i.e. quins, septuplets etc. are possible. This has the potential for serious medical problems e.g. prematurity, physical and mental handicap, or serious maternal complications. Zygote freezing allows limitation of the number of zygotes to be replaced and hence diminishes the likelihood of multiple pregnancy. It also means that the other zygotes can be stored which allows the reassurance to the couple of a further chance at IVF with much less stress, inconvenience, trauma and expense.
The Role of the Church Committee recognises that the inability to conceive children often leads to disappointment, frustration and a sense of failure for the couple concerned. The Committee notes the efforts of gynaecologists and others in the medical profession to overcome this difficulty by the introduction of various techniques, including in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
The Committee takes seriously the fact that IVF may involve the creation of more fertilised ova than are required for any one treatment and that some may have ethical reservations about this. However it must be remembered that in natural conception many fertilised ova do not implant, and of those that do many do not develop into a successful pregnancy. These ethical issues must be pointed out to the couple concerned during counselling. Clear guidelines and regulations for practitioners are essential to diminish any possibility of abuse.
The Committee notes that by allowing further opportunities the practice of zygote freezing can enhance the success rate of IVF but it should only be used in procedures to overcome infertility.
This Working Paper and its contents are produced by the Medical Ethics Working Group as a contribution to discussion of issues in Ireland. As such they have only the authority of that Group and are not intended to reflect the policy of the Role of the Church Committee or of any other Church of Ireland Body.