PrimeTime: Embryo Adoption

ByABC News
April 11, 2001, 5:01 PM

April 12 -- Thanks to modern medicine, Bob and Susanne Gray have the full house they always wanted: a daughter conceived with the help of fertility drugs, twins from in vitro fertilization and their youngest, conceived through old-fashioned intercourse.

But modern medicine also left them with a dilemma. With their family complete, they no longer wanted to implant in Susanne's uterus the 23 frozen embryos left over from the in vitro fertilization process. But as religious Christians, they did not want to discard what they considered potential life.

Microscopic Cells or Promise of Life?

The microscopic embryos are the result of Susanne's in vitro fertilization treatments. She was given injections to help her produce multiple eggs. The eggs were then fertilized with her husband's sperm in a lab, becoming a small cluster of cells. Some consider the fertilized egg a zygote, others call it a pre-embryo, and still others refer to it as an embryo.

Several of these embryos are then transferred back to the woman's uterus, and any extras are often frozen in case the couple wants to try again. (With frozen embryos, there is usually a one in five chance of success.)

Theoretically, frozen embryos can last forever by being stored in super-cold liquid nitrogen. And when couples no longer need them, usually the options are destroying them, donating them for research, and donating them to a fertility clinic to be used by another couple.

The Grays did not like any of the options. They believe life begins at conception, that each of the embryos is their genetic offspring, a human being and their responsibility. They wanted to know their offspring would be well taken care of, and they wanted to find parents who were college-educated Christians married for at least seven years.

Adopting an Embryo

So they found a relatively recent alternative: a program that allowed them to hand pick a couple to receive their embryos. The Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program in California helped them find Cara and Greg Vest, who would adopt the embryos, and then give birth to the Gray's genetic children.