Shocking jewellery created from 'leftover' embryos highlights need for tough regulation on ART companies
This week it was revealed that an Australian company Baby Bee Hummingbirds, is taking embryos ‘leftover’ from Artificial Reproductive Technologies (ART) such as in-vitro fertilisation and turning them into “keepsake” jewellery for their parents. This action is an absolute travesty and shows contempt for the precious value of human life.
An embryo is a new human life in its earliest stages. The embryo is a new individual, a unique human being capable of full development into an adult. To purposefully destroy a human embryo, therefore, is to cut short its human life regardless of its early age.
With the many advancements in reproductive and biotechnologies, we know that many human embryos are routinely destroyed or experimented on for research. Now, revelations this week find that human beings are also being made into jewellery.
Founder of the Baby Bee Hummingbirds company, Amy McGlade reported that she has created about 50 pieces of jewellery using human embryos. The jewellery is created using “embryo ash,” a material made by preserving and then cremating the embryos.
McGlade stated: “What a better way to celebrate your most treasured gift, your child, than through jewellery?”
Directly destroying the life of the child to create a commemorative decorative piece cannot truly be called a treasure. There is no doubt, that for the parents involved here, (whatever one's view is of ART), those embryos are created with a view to giving them life. That is the intention of the parents who come to the ART programs. That, we presume, is also the intention of the ART technicians. There is no goal at the time of their creation of destroying them for other uses.
Another question that we might raise is to the legality of the process? In Australia, trade in human tissue is prohibited by state law, and in ethical guidelines by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) — the National statement on ethical conduct in human research and Organ and tissue donation by living donors: guidelines for ethical practice for health professionals. However, Australian statutes and ethical guidelines about uses of human tissue have been established without specific regard to commercial activities involving products derived from these tissues leaving the likes of Baby Bee Hummingbirds actions, ‘up in the air.’
It is also significant to ask, how did the company get access to the embryos in the first place from ART facilities? If so, can anyone get access to these embryos? Further, was there money exchanged in this process between the fertility companies and Baby Bee Hummingbirds?
It is highly dubious that the commercial use of human embryos in this manner is ethically acceptable. Through this process, the human body, even in its tiniest form is being commodified and treated as a commercial object. Human beings, even in their embryonic form are not 'property' that can be purchased or sold for commercial use. While they (embryos) rely on others for a time for their life and flourishing, ultimately, they are under the custodianship of their parents. As a community, we must find a better solution to support those couples facing the difficult and often agonising decision regarding what to do with their ‘leftover’ embryos. One that cherishes the life of the embryo and the hope in which it was created.
According to the NHMRC Ethical Guidelines (Paragraph 8.8 and 8.9), it is not desirable to leave embryos in storage indefinitely. The maximum time for which embryos may be kept in storage in Australia is five years with the option to renew consent for a further five years. If, after the maximum period of storage, the embryos have not been used, donated or allowed for use in research and no alternative arrangements have been made by the persons for whom the embryos are stored, clinics arrange for the disposal of the embryos. The NHMRC highlights that embryos that are disposed of should be done with respect and allow to succumb. In Australia, indefinite storage is not an option.
Whilst, the ethical question of the use and the creation of surplus embryos in the first place is an important one for discussion, it is a separate issue to what has been raised here with the Baby Bee Hummingbirds company. Here, the human embryos are certainly being misappropriated. Intentionally killing the embryo to make jewellery is simply not the answer for parents to create timeless memories to remember their unborn children.
Please sign this petition now which will be sent to the National Council for Medical Research highlighting that the commercial use of human embryos is a breach of the guidelines and should not be sold to third parties for commercial use. We also ask the director of the Baby Bee Hummingbirds company to immediately end the production of this jewellery.
Sign this petition now!
Leftover human embryos from ART are not commercial entities for public use