LONDON — Breaking open glass tubes stored in freezing nitrogen, scientists at fertility clinics in Britain reluctantly destroyed several thousand abandoned human embryos Thursday under a law limiting storage to five years.
The government rejected pleas from anti-abortion activists to intervene to save the embryos.
Scientists complained about the waste of their work as they smashed glass tubes containing the embryos--four-cell dots the size of a grain of sand--that died within minutes and were then incinerated.
"It has been very distressing and frustrating for everyone," said Ian Craft, director of a London test-tube clinic where a first batch of 200 embryos was destroyed. "They should have given people a year's grace to claim unclaimed embryos."
There were last-minute reprieves for the embryos of two married women--one an American and the other a British soldier now stationed in Germany. They called clinics just hours before the destruction program began.