Would-be parents are grieving the loss of eggs and embryos. But not everyone is sympathetic.

In May this year, Kate Plants organised a memorial service. She was grieving the loss of her five embryos.

Around 4000 embryos and eggs were destroyed when the temperature rose in a storage tank at a fertility centre in Cleveland, Ohio, over a weekend in March.

Plants had her embryos frozen four years ago, before having her ovaries removed as part of treatment for cancer. When the embryos were destroyed, she lost her chance of having biological children.

She and her husband had already decorated a nursery and talked about names. They decided they liked Autumn for a girl.

“I think about who they could have been and what they would have been like,” she told CNN earlier this year. “Those were our future children.”

Kate Plants. Image: CNN.
Kate Plants had her ovaries removed as part of her cancer treatment. Image: CNN.

Carrianne Mahoney, who suffered from polycystic ovarian syndrome, was another woman who lost her embryos in the malfunction.

"Now I’m never going to know what those babies were going to grow up to be or anything," she told CNN.

Feeling that her embryos weren’t being "honoured", Plants spoke to the director of the local Woodvale cemetery. He agreed to have a bench built in memory of the embryos and eggs, and that’s where Plants held the memorial service.

About 50 people attended.

"These children existed, even if they were the smallest form of children," Plants explained in The Guardian at the time.

"We’re telling the world that our embryos and eggs mattered."

But not everyone was sympathetic. In an article in the Washington Post earlier this week, Plants revealed that the idea of the memorial service had been attacked online.

Some people had called it "stupid". One woman, who had lost her son to cancer, messaged Plants to accuse her of "disrespecting" bereaved parents who had "birthed, held, nurtured, cared for and buried" their children.


The article in the Post drew a mostly unsympathetic reaction itself. Online, many people criticised Plants and the other would-be parents, declaring that the embryos were "just a cluster of cells" and "not even viable".

"Let’s not call tissue a baby," wrote one. "Don’t be weird."

Another woman labelled anyone filing a lawsuit as a "gold digger". "Go adopt and stop whining about something that was out of everyone’s control," she added.

It’s hard to believe that people could show such a lack of sympathy. To lose the chance of ever having biological children must be devastating, especially when it follows on from a health crisis like cancer.

Those eggs and embryos held people’s dreams of parenthood. They mattered. They deserve to be mourned, any way that the would-be parents want to mourn them.

More and more eggs and embryos are being frozen and kept in storage.

Lawsuits won’t bring back the ones that have been lost in Ohio, but they might make other fertility centres take extra care to make sure a similar malfunction won’t happen with their storage tanks.

Let people grieve and let them sue.