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Who donates their embryos to research?

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Research using human embryos, including stem cell research is a controversial topic. The vast majority of embryos used in research projects are donated by couples undergoing fertility treatment. Usually donated embryos are those described as ‘surplus’ since they are considered unsuitable for either clinical treatment or for freezing and storage for use later, and would otherwise be discarded. The issues around research using human embryos, particularly for infertile couples, are complex, and the question of donating them to research, even when the alternative may be to discard them, is extremely complicated. Little is known about the backgrounds and motivations of the people who agree to donate embryos for this purpose. The aim of this study was to ascertain if these couples share any particular demographic or social characteristics.

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