Letter:Embryos are not commodities

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The Independent Online
Sir: I read with interest your leading article, "Frozen embryos: the race for a new ethical code" (24 July). I would suggest that an embryo is not "a couple's potential for children" but a child with potential.

Every one of us began life as a single cell newly created when sperm fertilised egg at conception. At this point, a unique individual has inherited characteristics from both parents. Their genes have already determined the baby's hair colour, eye colour, height and so on, and its sex. If this isn't the start of human life, what is?

It is not only Roman Catholics who believe in the sanctity of life. The plight of the "abandoned" embryos is a clear violation of the 1948 Declaration of Geneva: "I will have the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception ..."

I was pleased that you mentioned that very few implantations of frozen embryos are successful. Eighty per cent of couples who enter IVF programmes end with no child. What effect must this have on the couples for whom treatment proves unsuccessful? I would suggest that the reason the parents of so many embryos have "abandoned" them is because of the emotional trauma they must have suffered.

On a positive note, I am glad that the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority plan to ban payment to donors. I hope it stems from the realisation that the embryos are not commodities.