‘Babies from the grave’ a step closer

The Dominion Post 24 July 2008
Women could soon have “babies from the grave” or give birth after menopause using frozen eggs. The influential Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology, set up in 2004 to advise the Government, recommended yesterday that frozen eggs become an established procedure in fertility treatment. New Zealand women have been able to freeze their eggs since 2005, but it has been illegal to use them in fertility treatment programmes such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). If adopted, the controversial proposal would enable career women wanting to postpone children and those without a partner to put their fertility “on ice” by freezing their eggs for later use. It could also mean that, if a woman gives permission at the time her eggs are harvested, then later dies, a surrogate could be impregnated with the embryo containing her egg – in effect creating a baby from the grave.

The committee has also paved the way for so-called saviour siblings – whose embryos have been pre-selected to create a child to aid a sick brother or sister – to include other relatives such as cousins and also assist those with non-genetic diseases, such as leukaemia. At present, “saviour siblings” can be created to assist only with genetic diseases, such as Huntington’s. Fertility clinics are welcoming the proposals but the Catholic Bioethics Centre said it opposed the discarding of embryos that failed the selection process for “saviour siblings”. The Catholic Church was also concerned about life being created outside a “loving context”, centre researcher John Kleinsman said.