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A Frozen Debate: Finding an Ethical Solution for the Regulation of Embryo Donation

Horner, Claire (2011) A Frozen Debate: Finding an Ethical Solution for the Regulation of Embryo Donation. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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It is estimated that over 400,000 embryos are currently cryopreserved in the United States, and many of these will never be used by their creators. Although many options exist for the disposition of unwanted embryos, such as donation to research or destruction, one option, embryo donation to another individual for implantation, has met with resistance from some religious institutions such as the Catholic Church, and remains largely unregulated in American law. This practice, which offers the possibility of life for the embryo and the possibility of parenthood for the recipient, should be morally acceptable in the Catholic tradition and properly regulated by legislatures.This paper argues that the current contract law approach to embryo donation is not sufficient to ensure permanence of the agreement, and the practice is not intrinsically unethical based on principles of Catholic bioethics. This thesis proposes that reconceptualizing the practice of embryo donation as embryo adoption can resolve both the legal insufficiencies and the Catholic ethical concerns. Approaching embryo donation within an adoption framework definitively establishes the allocation of parental rights and provides them with judicial support. Viewing the practice as a form of adoption instead of a reproductive technology also avoids a violation of Catholic moral principles and establishes embryo donation as an ethical option for those wishing to adopt abandoned embryos.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSatkoske,
Committee MemberMeisel, Alanmeisel@pitt.eduMEISEL
Committee MemberVanDyke,
Committee MemberParker, Lisalisap@pitt.eduLISAP
Date: 6 June 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 18 April 2011
Approval Date: 6 June 2011
Submission Date: 21 April 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Bioethics
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: contract law; embryo adoption; Catholic moral teaching; reproductive technology
Other ID:, etd-04212011-213342
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:40
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:41


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