The Rotunda Hospital is the first hospital in Ireland to freeze fertilised eggs.

Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital took the decision to freeze fertilised eggs only after careful consideration and legal advice. It began to freeze zygotes, or pre-embryonic fertilised eggs, a month ago, and so far over half its patients have availed of the service.

Professor Robert Harrison explains that this decision was arrived at only after very careful consideration,

This has been thought long and hard by the Board of the hospital, who gave us permission. After all, this hospital has been going for 250 years, so they’re hardly likely to do something very precipitately.

Up to now, women undergoing fertility treatment could only have up to three fertilised eggs placed in the womb at any one time. With the addition of a new machine in the Rotunda Hospital’s fertility clinic, eggs can now be stored and implanted later, if a couple’s first attempt to have a child fails. However, the introduction of freezing may have legal implications. Deirdre Madden of the University College Cork School of Law explains why,

The constitutional protection of the unborn may have implications here, depending on the way in which the Supreme Court, as ultimate interpreters of the constitution, will interpret that word. If the word ‘unborn’ is interpreted to include the fertilised egg or embryo in the laboratory, well then it may not be permissible.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 7 May 1998. The reporter is Emma O’Kelly.