More than 80 per cent of couples refuse to give up spare embryos for adoption after in vitro fertilisation, says an international study.

The studies were mentioned in a paper by the Malta College of Pathologists, which warned that the IVF Bill warranted further discussion by stakeholders.

The proposed law has raised eyebrows, as it would allow couples interested in IVF to give their consent to embryo adoption. Same-sex couples would rather opt for a genetically related embryo than accept adopting frozen embryos, the college said.

“The inevitable consequence would be an increase in the number of embryos frozen for indefinite time periods,” it warned.

This, the college noted, could give rise to “major ethical consequences”, including the issue of ownership upon the death or separation of parents.

It could also be the first step for unclaimed embryos to be used for research or to be eliminated. The Bill also proposes that gamete donors remain anonymous, and the college noted this raised concern, adding that genetic diseases become apparent only after men and women donated their sperm or eggs. 

The Bill cannot be adopted in its present form

“In this case, donors would no longer remain anonymous,” it said.

The pathologists suggested donor blood or tissue samples be preserved for future tests. They expressed concern about the “remote but plausible possibility that two biological half-siblings may bear a child with severe genetic disease on account of the gamete donor anonymity”.

Even at the one-cell stage, the human embryo was a genetically complete human being and was distinct from both parents, the college said, noting that embryos were genetically autonomous and had the full potential to develop into an adult human being with a normal lifespan.

On surrogacy, the college said psychological issues in the child could arise due to “a lack of sense of belonging”.

Although the proposed law specified altruism as the only legitimate reason for surrogacy, the pathologists said they were worried this could open the door to the exploitation of women.

Similar concerns were exp-ressed by human rights group Aditus Foundation: “We feel the Bill cannot be adopted in its present form, as it raises extremely serious human rights concerns that cannot be dismissed.”

The proposal to have embryos donated or adopted was also worrying, Aditus said, insisting that apart from complex ethical and social issues, “the proposed procedure could be tantamount to a forced adoption”.

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