Family Physician: Embryo Adoption -- By: William R. Cutrer

Journal: Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry
Volume: JDFM 003:1 (Fall 2012)
Article: Family Physician: Embryo Adoption
Author: William R. Cutrer


Family Physician:
Embryo Adoption

William Cutrer

William R. Cutrer (M.D., University of Kentucky) serves as C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Ministry and as the Director of the Gheens Center for Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. After a successful medical career, he served as a senior pastor in Mesquite, Texas. He has been a guest lecturer at numerous colleges, churches, and other institutions. Dr. Cutrer is the author or co-author of several publications, including Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, and his most recent release The Church Leader’s Handbook: A Guide to Counseling Families and Individuals in Crisis.

Early one morning at the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, the embryologist has already begun a day of transfers. She carefully withdraws tiny plastic straws from liquid nitrogen tanks and dips the tubes into a controlled-temperature bath. She checks and rechecks names and numbers.

After taking the straws to the microscope’s stage, she snips off the ends. Slowly, slowly she pushes a plunger through the straw. One by one the embryos move into the Petri dish that contains the proper media for safe thawing and expansion. The tiny persons, having been suspended in cryogenic limbo for months—even years—swell with the ingress of fluid. Two, six, at times as many as one hundred cells. Breathtaking.

The embryologist moves the embryos from one solution to the next, bringing them back to normal fluid balance. The healthy ones become apparent quickly. Others remain unchanged, crystallized, having failed to survive the freeze-thaw process. She hears only the hum of the heating equipment, recognizing the tragic death of a fellow human being.

For the surviving embryos, appointments have already been made. Background checks completed. Donating and adoptive parents paired. Medical checks completed for the adoptive mother. Hormonal preparation has been completed for the transfer on this special day.

The fertility specialist rechecks the identification and status of embryos before a final consultation with the recipient mom. He explains the current status of the embryos and obtains proper consent. The operating room is prepared.

The specialist examines the recipient mom to determine the precise location for placing the embryos. Having completed this, he uses instruments and ultrasound to pass the special catheter through the window to the adjoining lab.

The embryologist, standing on the other side of the window, moves the embryos to the final solution, draws them up into the transfer catheter, and passes it back to the fertility specialist. Using ultrasound guidance, he transfers the embryos to the pr...

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