According to the US National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), they are the oldest frozen embryos ever to result in a live birth.

Some media reported the birth three weeks earlier of twins who were conceived thirty years ago and whose embryos had remained frozen since then.

On 22 April, 1992, an anonymous couple decided to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. To that end, they used a 34-year-old egg donor and a 50-year-old sperm donor. The embryos obtained were frozen and stored for nearly three decades in liquid nitrogen at almost 200 degrees below zero until the owners of the embryos decided to donate them to the NEDC in Knoxville, Tennessee, so that another couple could use them.

Husband and wife Rachel and Philip Ridgeway, parents of four children, aged eight, six, three and almost two, all naturally conceived, have become the parents of babies Lydia Ann and Timothy Ronald, who have become the oldest frozen embryos ever born to date. Mrs. Ridgeway agreed to have the embryos transferred using assisted reproduction technology (ART), successfully delivering them.

Previously, a 24-year-old embryo and a 27-year-old embryo had held the record for the longest frozen embryos. The NEDC is a private organization that has brought about the birth of more than 1,260 babies from donated embryos.

Bioethical Assessment

The adoption of embryos left over from ART is a controversial issue that we have previously addressed.

The tragedy of the huge number of human embryos that remain cryopreserved with an uncertain fate or directly condemned to destruction is one of the major undesirable effects of ART, for which no satisfactory solution has yet been proposed. On the contrary, their number continues to increase, saturating the cryogenic freezers of the clinics that practice these techniques.

The embryos can have a number of different fates. There is the possibility that they are finally transferred to the womb of a woman who agrees to carry them, which may be the genetic mother who provided the egg, or another woman. However, these cases are the rarest. Most typically, in the majority of these cases, the surplus embryos are not claimed by the genetic parents and, after the four years established by law, may be donated for biomedical research, which will inevitably lead to their death.

In some cases, accidents that have affected the functioning of these cryogenic freezers have caused the death of an undetermined number of these embryos.

Cryopreserved embryos that have not been transferred or donated for research are victims of an uncertain fate, probably death as a result of thawing, which is an unacceptable attack on their human dignity.

Frozen embryo adoption

Embryos not claimed by their genetic parents have only one chance of living, which is to be carried by women who adopt them.  This possibility allows these human beings to finally live, human beings who, in an embryonic state, endure an undignified situation, remaining abandoned in state of cryopreservation with no other hope of life than implantation in the womb of women who welcome them.

Nevertheless, as we have previously reported, this possibility is not without ethical difficulties.

Accepting the use of ART implies putting the beginning of human life outside its natural setting: the loving embrace of the man and woman who give themselves to each other and welcome the fruit of their giving. IVF introduces technology into this process, replacing its natural environment with a Petri dish in the laboratory. The use of these techniques by couples who, having no sterility problems, agree to give birth to these embryos sentenced to death in order to give them back the possibility of living is an act of unquestionable generosity. Nonetheless, objections have been raised to the process in the sense that it could contribute to the legitimization of procedures that are fundamentally flawed, such as ART. However, these criticisms can be countered by the argument that the adoptive parents, as mentioned in this case, have not promoted the process of obtaining embryos in vitro, nor are they consequently responsible for the resulting surplus; instead they have come, a posteriori, to offer the only possible solution to keep them alive and allow them to be born. Resorting to the gestation of these embryos using ART would constitute a lesser evil, for participating in these techniques, but at the same time, it is the only dignified solution for them.


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