The status of the human embryo in various religions

William Neaves


Research into human development involves the use of human embryos and their derivative cells and tissues. How religions view the human embryo depends on beliefs about ensoulment and the inception of personhood, and science can neither prove nor refute the teaching of those religions that consider the zygote to be a human person with an immortal soul. This Spotlight article discusses some of the dominant themes that have emerged with regard to how different religions view the human embryo, with a focus on the Christian faith as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic perspectives.

Neaves W. The status of the human embryo in various religions. Development 2017 144: 2541-2543; doi: 10.1242/dev.151886

Embryos abandoned by parents present ethical, legal quandary

The Calgary Herald reports that fewer than 5% (20,000) of the roughly 400,000 frozen embryos at fertility clinics in the United States have been abandoned by their parents.  It suggests that over 135,000 frozen embryos are stored at clinics in Canada; a  5% rate would imply over 6,700 abandoned embryos.  That figure might be too low, since one clinic is reported to have 1,000 “unclaimed” embryos.  The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has decided that clinics can destroy embryos that have been abandoned for at least five years, the parents cannot be located, and there are no written instructions to indicate what should be done with them.  The guidance is legally and ethically contested. [Calgary Herald]