news item: “Embryos for Donation: Where are the Ethical Boundaries?” by Carole of Fertility Lab Insider

Years ago, when I first started researching and googling because we were having troubles conceiving, Carole’s blog is one of the very first ones I came across. She has directed several fertility labs since 1995, and her blog is a wealth of information on all things fertility related, and I have always found her posts on everything from ART to the ramifications to the ALI world of pending political bills to be incredibly informative and insightful.

This week the post that grabbed my attention was one that she wrote about a lab that is now offering embryos via an egg donor/sperm donor cycle. She described it as follows:

Couples pay a set price –roughly equivalent to the cost of a fresh IVF cycle– to participate in the program and each couple gets two embryos from the pool of fresh embryos created using donated eggs and donated sperm in their shared cycle. None of the recipient couples have a genetic link to the created embryos. Any remaining embryos are frozen pending assignment to other couples outside the original shared cycle, defaulting to a type of custody or perhaps ownership (?) on the part of the embryo donation clinic until they are matched with a recipient couple. If a couple fails to become pregnant from the pre-paid cycle, they get another embryo creation cycle at no charge with a new egg and sperm donor. A brief description of the embryo donation program can be found on the California Conceptions website, but it is a little short on details.

Now I never did IVF, but from talking with many of you, I know that the question of what to do with the remaining embryos after family building is complete is a tough one. This takes it to a whole new level wherein the clinic would have effective “ownership” over these embryos before excess embryos are assigned to a new couple…and by extension, that clinic would have ownership over life.

Carole goes on to say:

Apparently, the means by which embryo donation is carried out is evolving beyond the simple traditional model which requires that we give some thought to what limits, if any, we want to put on the process of embryo donation. Should embryo donation be limited to donations from patient gamete-created embryos only? Is it ethically okay to design an (arguably) more cost-effective system to produce more “donor embryos” to meet the demand? I don’t have the answers. For me, the ethical way to handle embryo issues is  always to be fully transparent with all individuals involved and- as much as is possible–to look out for the best interests of the embryo’s future as a donor-conceived child.

Before commenting on this post, I highly recommend reading the entirety of Carole’s post because she raises a lot of really valid points and questions. Then come back here and let us know…


What do you think about a business owning embryos?

What did you do / will you do with your leftover embryos? Was this a consideration for you when deciding whether or not to pursue IVF?

Do you think this is a realistic, ethical way to help with the possible shortage of donor embryos?

Is the cost benefit of this idea to IF patients a major or minor factor in your feelings about the issue?


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