Extra embryos: The ethics of cryopreservation in Ecuador and elsewhere



Through ethnographic comparison with Ecuador, I localize North American and European ethical debates about embryos. In Ecuador, some in vitro fertilization (IVF) practitioners and patients do whatever they can to preserve the life of embryos through donation or cryopreservation. For this group, embryos are embroiled in debates about life, as they commonly are in North America. However, other Ecuadorians do not view embryos through debates about life. Instead, these IVF practitioners and patients let embryos die rather than freeze them, to regulate the legitimate bounds of kin relations. These contrasting models of life ethics and kin ethics illuminate ideologies of religion, kinship, and personhood in Ecuador. In addition, this comparison demonstrates that the location of embryos in a framework of kinship prevents their circulation and exchange, whereas the North American and European debates about the human life of embryos allow for their continued circulation in the globalized reproductive marketplace.