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Test-tube embryos pose a quandary in Australia

An Australian legal official recommended Monday that two ''orphaned'' test-tube embryos should remain frozen pending passage of legislation to determine if they should be implanted in a surrogate mother.

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The embryos, conceived by the ''in vitro'' fertilization method, then frozen in liquid nitrogen three years ago, have stirred a legal and ethical debate since it was revealed the couple that produced them, Mario and Elsa Rios, both of Los Angeles, had died. The Rioses left an estate said to be worth between $1 million and $7 million, raising the possibility that the minute embryos might be heirs to a fortune.

The premier of Victoria State, John Cain, said a committee studying ethics of test-tube births would decide the fate of the frozen embryos, and Victoria Attorney General Jim Kennan indicated Monday that the state would follow the committee's recommendations.

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