The Ongoing Debate to Define Personhood

By Mallory Knight

After a fatal mishap with a cryogenic freezer at a fertility center in Cleveland, OH, women are mourning the loss 4,000 frozen eggs and embryos. This immensely tragic event sparks the discussion over what exactly was lost. The women who lost embryos and eggs have taken to the courts to get help, and they seek personhood for the lives lost in the freezer malfunction, which would charge the center with wrongful death.

IVF not only freezes eggs, but it freezes embryos, the first stage of a person’s life. At this stage, even with only 8 cells present, scientists are able to decipher if the embryo will be a baby boy or baby girl. 8 cells is so minuscule and yet they are markers of new life.

Many are fighting back against this debate, saying that these women have nothing to mourn as they claim that embryos are nothing more than a clump of cells. Kate Plant, who lost 5 embryos in the event, received an angry message shaming her for mourning saying
“Thanks for disrespecting those bereaved parents” who “birthed, held, nurtured, raised and cared for and buried” their children, from a woman who had lost her son to cancer.

We need to support these women and families who lost not just an embryo, but their children. It is more than appropriate for them to mourn as such, and seek justice for the lives lost.

This debate will be instrumental in the debate on how we define personhood. Our law should treat life in all stages the same. A person is a person, whether they have 8 cells or 37.2 trillion.