Parents panic after learning they have weeks to recover embryos in Greek fertility scandal

frozen embryo, embryos

Last year, a fertility clinic in Greece accused of human trafficking left would-be parents across the globe panicking, with some scared they would not be able to retrieve the babies born to surrogate mothers there. Nearly a year after the scandal first broke, more parents were notified they had just six weeks at that time to recover their embryos… before they are destroyed.

“My clients have been told ‘You must get your embryos out because we are closing this facility down,'” family and fertility law specialist Stephen Page told The Daily Telegraph. He added, “What concerns me is what happens to the patients who don’t know about the 30 June deadline. Will their material be disposed of, or sent to another clinic, and if so which?”

In August 2023, police raided the Mediterranean Fertility Institute, located on the island of Crete. There had been accusations of human trafficking and fraud, with police alleging that 169 women were forced to be egg donors and surrogates. Low-income women from countries like Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Georgia, and Albania were targeted by so-called “brokers,” who lured them to Greece and then imprisoned them in safe houses to undergo the surrogacy process. The fertility clinic was also accused of defrauding would-be parents, charging as much as $200,000 for one child, and arranging illegal adoptions.

Every single staff member at the clinic was arrested and charged with human trafficking, mediation in the adoption of minors, purchase and sale of genetic material or fertilized eggs, falsification of medical file data for the purpose of selling genetic material, forgery exceeding €120,000, false medical certificates intended for judicial use, disruption of family order (including fictitious marriages), and fraud combined with simple bodily harm.

READ: Kourtney Kardashian: Conceiving naturally after five failed IVF cycles was ‘God’s blessing’

Australia was one of the countries most heavily impacted by the scandal, and there are currently 38 Australian couples still affected. After the clinic was shut down, the embryos were transferred to Chania General Hospital, but the hospital is now terminating its cryopreservation storage services — meaning the Australian couples have just a few weeks left to retrieve their embryos and store them elsewhere, before they are destroyed.

Embryos, though often described as mere genetic material, are human beings — though, in the case of the fertility industry, they are often kept frozen and prevented from being able to grow and develop as expected had they been implanted into a human womb. The simple truth is that an embryo is a distinct and individual human organism, merely in a specific state of development. It is for this exact reason why so many parents are facing such emotional turmoil over this saga.

Sam Everingham, founder of Growing Families, a non-profit organization guiding Australian families through international surrogacy, said a lot of his clients had already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for “a surrogacy program that was never carried out” and now were facing the burden of finding even more money to move and store their embryos. Because of this, he said, “It’s too much to handle, they’ve lost trust, a lot of them have given up.”

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