The National Institutes of Health moved closer this week to fulfilling President Obama’s promise earlier this year that he would lift restrictions on funding human embryonic stem cell research. Human embryonic stem cell research can help us determine how diseases arise, test new drugs, and create new cells to repair ailing tissue.

These latest developments give realistic options to patients who have leftover embryos stored at clinics around the country. When patients go through IVF to create embryos, whether with their own genetic material or that of a donor, they often have leftover embryos. With the increasingly successful IVF rates, doctors implant fewer embryos with better results. That means there are more leftover embryos of which to dispose.

Patients may choose to keep the embryos in storage, but that can cost hundreds of dollars a year in fees, and isn’t a final answer. They may choose to donate them to another person, but are often hesitant as the embryos would be the genetic siblings to their own children. Finally, they may choose to destroy them. However, after years of infertility, and the emotional and financial struggles that go along with that, patients have a philosophically hard time in doing so. A more popular option, therefore, may be to donate them to medical research with the idea that they are then helping society as a whole, even if the embryos are ultimately destroyed.

However the patients feel, they should speak with a fertility counselor, their doctor and an attorney in making their decision.