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May 9, 1990

Frozen Pre-embryos

JAMA. 1990;263(18):2484-2487. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440180090039

WHILE in vitro fertilization (IVF) has enabled many previously infertile couples to have children, it has also posed troubling legal and ethical dilemmas. This report, which was prepared by the Committee on Medicolegal Problems and the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, will discuss the legal and ethical issues created by the freezing of human pre-embryos and will indicate how rights, if any, should be allocated among the two gamete providers, the frozen pre-embryos, and third parties. (Because fertilized eggs are frozen before the embryonic stage of development, they are referred to as pre-embryos.)

Two recent court cases illustrate several of the dilemmas that have arisen as a result of human pre-embryo freezing. In the Davis case, a divorcing couple contested authority over pre-embryos that had been frozen for later use. The Davis case began in 1988, when Junior and Mary Sue Davis entered an IVF program and had nine