Embryos On Ice: A Delicate Issue Frozen In Time

What to do with thousands of embryos that will never be used

On July 31, a peculiar ritual will be performed at the Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge, England, where the world's first test-tube baby was born 18 years ago. White-coated laboratory technicians will gently lift metal cylinders containing roughly a thousand frozen human embryos from frosty baths of liquid nitrogen. Tiny glass ampules with embryos of up to eight cells will be placed in a bath of warm water, where they will be allowed to get too warm--and die. "The official jargon is `we will interfere with the thawing process,"' says Susan M. Avery, Bourn Hall's scientific director.

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