May 24, 2024

McEmbryos: California clinic offers cut-rate pregnancies

Cut-rate embryos popular at California IVF clinic.

A California IVF clinic has created a new business model – mass produced embryos, the Los Angeles Times reports. Dr Ernest Zeringue, of California Conceptions, has tackled the biggest obstacle infertile couples face when they decide to have an IVF baby – cost. Instead of bespoke embyros created for a particular couple from their own or donated eggs and sperm, he creates a batch of embryos from donor sperm and eggs and offers them to several couples at once.

There is a flat fee of US$9,800 and a money-back guarantee of a pregnancy. It will rise to US$12,500 next year.

The advantages of this approach are many. It is superior to embryo adoption because surplus embryos for IVF clinics often come from infertile couples. It reduces the cost by 90% in some cases. It has a 95% success rate (according to the clinic) and demand is growing rapidly. Because the donors of the gametes are anonymous, there will never be any problems with biological parents.

There are disadvantages, of course. The babies will not be genetically related to the parents and there will be siblings.

Even the IVF community has been shocked by the alleged commodification of embryos. The ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine is to consider its implications at a meeting in January. A doctor with Embryo Donation International, an IVF clinic in Florida, professed to be horrified on his blog.

“I can’t help but think of these dono/donor cryopreserved embryos as fast food embryos or “McEmbryos.” I can just see the patients coming in, looking above the cash register to the menu above and ordering a “Number 3,” which has a burger (i.e., bright, blonde-haired, blue-eyed egg donor) and fries (i.e., handsome, athletic and tall sperm donor) and ends up getting the order supersized to boot (i.e., requesting twins).

Dr. Robert Klitzman, a bioethicist at Columbia University, said that Dr Zeringue was creating embryos for sale. “It gets kind of creepy,” he told the Times. “There is a yuck factor. We need to proceed very carefully.”

Michael Cook
Creative commons
commodification of babies