The ethics committee of the Japan Society of Clinical Oncology has compiled a proposal saying it is “too early” to approve of the freezing of female cancer patients’ ova, society officials said Monday.
The committee expressed wariness toward the idea of freezing the ova so that the women — whose ova are at risk of being damaged due to their cancer treatment — may have children in the future, saying the technology and safety of such a step have yet to be established.
The society is expected to put its official recommendation forward by the end of next year.
Some academic groups have expressed approval for freezing ova, and some births using frozen ova have been carried out in Japan. However, the society’s recommendation is expected to urge experts to debate the matter further.
According to the committee’s proposal, freezing ova should be conducted with caution and limited to clinical research.
The risks involved, such as the possibility of chromosomes becoming damaged with the crystallization of ice, is higher compared with the freezing of sperm, the proposal says.
It also notes that not enough is known about the effects on genes of preserving ova over a long period of time.
It says freezing ova should not go beyond clinical research until epidemiological studies have been made on factors that include the dangers of miscarriage and premature birth resulting from their use.
When the decision for freezing ova is made, the committee emphasized the need for informed consent by patients aware of the safety risks involved in extracting ova.
The committee said that any preserved ova should be disposed of should the donor die, and that the buying and selling of frozen ova should be banned to prevent them from being used for commercial purposes.
Last year, an internal committee of the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology compiled a report saying it is too early for the freezing of ova to be carried out on a general scale.
However, the society has yet to draw a formal conclusion on the matter.
Freezing ova had long been deemed more difficult than similarly preserving sperm or fertilized ova, as their cell membranes are more delicate.
However, technological advances in recent years have reduced such concerns to the extent to which they can now be practically used.
In June 2002, it was learned that a woman gave birth using sperm frozen and preserved before her husband died. The case is currently in court, with the woman seeking legal recognition that the child is the couple’s. Skeptics believe similar problems could arise with frozen ova.
Not only is the freezing of ova seen as a viable solution for cancer patients, it is seen as a way to have children in a way that matches a woman’s lifestyle.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.