"Imagine in a thousand years someone doing IVF with a long-frozen embryo just to see what a 21st century – or, in this case, 20th century – human being was like. Just keeping them frozen – kicking the can down the road a little farther – seems wrong to me. . . . If you keep putting it off by keeping the embryos in liquid nitrogen limbo, who knows how they may eventually be used?" Hank Greely, Director of Stanford University's Center for Law and the Biosciences.
A heartwarming report was recently published by the San Jose Mercury News telling the story of a family whose year's long dream of parenthood was finally realized when a couple they'd never met donated their 19-year-old frozen embryo to them for adoption:
"Baby Liam Burke is just learning to crawl. But he was conceived when Bill Clinton was president, the World Trade Center stood tall and home computers had the newfound ability to dial into something called the World Wide Web. Suspended 19 years in deep freeze, Liam is the beloved new son of Kelly Burke – and one of the oldest embryos ever thawed and restored to life."
Aside from the compelling human interest factor, this story raises many important questions about the ethical implications of storing human beings in the freezer next to the ground beef and ice cream bars. Two decades ago, a couple struggling with infertility underwent in vitro fertilization. After so much pain and so much struggle, it is understandable that they didn't want to forgo the chance to have more children. They elected to have their extra embryos preserved. Two decades later, thanks to the wonder of modern medicine a couple struggling with infertility used those preserved embryos and are now the proud parents of a healthy, happy baby boy.
What further proof does anyone need that life begins at conception? All the essential components that comprise the life and soul of Baby Liam have been there since the start, suspended in animation for 19 years just waiting for a warm womb in which to grow and thrive. This is a heartwarming story because it is the story of a tiny person that was given a chance at life. But, as this story reports, over half a million more tiny Liam's are waiting for that same chance – a chance many will never get: