Ethical Balance of Adopting a 'Snowflake' Embryo

Madeleine Brand talks with Suzanne Murray, who decided with her husband to adopt an embryo left over from another couple's infertility treatment, and now have a 2-year-old daughter. The Murrays are devout Catholics who had to balance their religious beliefs with their desire to have a child.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

We turn now to a complex and controversial subject: the adoption of human embryos. In a few moments, we'll talk with Slate's Will Saletan about the politics surrounding embryos. But first, we talk with someone whose two-year-old daughter is the result of an embryo adoption. She's Suzanne Murray, and she's on the line with us from Murrieta, California.

Welcome to the program, Ms. Murray.

Ms. SUZANNE MURRAY (Adoptive Embryo Mother): Thank you. Hi.

BRAND: Well, just tell us first why you decided to go this route and adopt a frozen embryo.

Ms. MURRAY: Well, my husband and I, before we had even gotten married, had talked about adopting. And after getting married, we had planned on starting a family and found out that we had infertility. So we immediately started looking into different adoption agencies. And I was referred to Nightlight Christian Adoptions in Fullerton. While we were at their information seminar, they started talking about embryo adoption. On the way home, my mother and my husband just thought it was a wonderful idea. They kind of had to talk me into it in some regards. You know, when you go through infertility, you finally come to the acceptance that you won't ever experience pregnancy. You kind of then have to reverse yourself and go, `Wait, there is a chance I could experience pregnancy.' So being Catholic, we decided that we would research what's their official opinion on it. And after prayer and consideration and researching it, we determined that that was the place where we felt like we were supposed to be.

BRAND: Their official stance against in vitro fertilization is that they're against it because it is against the natural way of making a baby. It's...

Ms. MURRAY: Right. Right.

BRAND: ...not what a man and wife do. So how did you feel about that, being a practicing Catholic?

Ms. MURRAY: Well, my feeling on it was that I never got a clear answer on what their official opinion is on embryo adoption because they don't actually have an official stance. For me to adopt an embryo, I wasn't going against their teaching any more than if I had adopted a child that was a result of premarital sex through domestic adoption.

BRAND: The way IVF works, as I understand it, is that many embryos are created and the fertility specialist chooses what he or she believes are the most viable, the healthiest looking embryos, to implant in the woman and the rest of them are frozen. And you chose one of those frozen ones. Were you afraid that you would get an embryo that wasn't healthy?

Ms. MURRAY: No more than if I had--you know, when were trying to conceive, that I might conceive a child that might have some medical problems.

BRAND: But could you choose your embryo? Could you choose which couple the embryo came from?

Ms. MURRAY: The agency goes through those little requirements from the genetic family and the adoptive family, and then they do a little bit of a matching. And then they send the information to the genetic couple. The genetic couple then gets to choose who they want to adopt their embryos. And as an adoptive family, we were sent their information. And we could say, yes, we wanted to go with this family, or no, we didn't.

BRAND: And so your daughter was born two years ago. And she's healthy?

Ms. MURRAY: Yes, she's a very healthy, very active two-year-old. And my husband and I keep laughing that we couldn't have created anything more wonderful if we had, you know, used our own genetics.

BRAND: And I understand now you are going through a traditional adoption. You're adopting two children from Russia?

Ms. MURRAY: Yes. Yes, I am.

BRAND: And so why are you going that route now and not going back to finding another frozen embryo?

Ms. MURRAY: When my husband I went out to dinner, I had the thought that we were supposed to adopt from Russia, and kind of having a conversation with myself, saying, no, you know, it's expensive, I--you know, we want a baby and what have you. And then my husband leaned over and said it out loud. And so we kind of took that as that's where our next child is. Then the story kind of got even funnier because were planning on adopting a baby, and God introduced us to a 12- and six-year-old that we're adopting. And we plan on bringing them home within the next four weeks.

BRAND: You're going to have your hands full.

Ms. MURRAY: I am.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MURRAY: Because we're going from, you know, training wheels to training bras. And we just keep kind of--we feel very fortunate to be able to adopt these girls. They're wonderful. And we feel very blessed.

BRAND: Suzanne Murray is the mother of Mary, a child who was conceived using in vitro embryo adoption, and soon to be the mother of two girls.

Ms. MURRAY: Yes.

BRAND: And their names are?

Ms. MURRAY: Thalia and Anya.

BRAND: Thank you very much.

Ms. MURRAY: Thank you.

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