What to do with unused embryos?
Reproductive medicine and freezing techniques have improved so much that a new challenge has arisen. What to do with unused embryos? Many people will keep them in long-term storage because hesitate to destroy or donate the unused embryos.
How many embryos are in storage today? Estimates say 400,000, 600,000 or even a million. Few of these will ever develop past the embryonic stage.
The Diane Rehm Show covered the topic of unused embryos
The panelists included a New York Times reporter, a fertility specialist, legal and medical ethics experts. They discussed questions raised by Modern Family’s Sophia Vegara’s court case regarding her frozen embryos. Her partner wished to access their unused embryos.
“I think it is wrong to make someone parent against their wishes,” says Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics, New York University Langone Medical Center. He suggested that couples should discuss what to do with unused embryos. They should discuss a change of heart, death, divorce or disability.
Expanding options for dealing with unused embryos in frozen storage
ASRM issues guidelines to educate people about the possibilities that can arise for extra embryos. Dr. Kaylen Silverberg has long advocated for simplifying the embryo donation process. He even testified in the 2015 Texas legislative session.
Many fertility clinics now offer the option of embryo donation. They encourage patients to draft an informed consent agreement and make arrangements for transfer to a storage facility.
Options that are currently allowed under Texas state law for the disposition of unused embryos include
- Donation to other patients so that they can successfully have a child
- Donation to research
- Compassionate transfer at a time in a woman’s cycle that she is not likely to get pregnant
- Discarding the embryos
You may also choose to store frozen eggs rather than frozen embryos
Advances have led to opportunities, but “it is very challenging for doctors and clinics,” says Dr. Eric Widra, chair of the SART Practice committee.
“We can’t continue to accumulate frozen embryos without a plan”, says Dr. Silverberg. “As physicians we do not wish to make the decision for our patients. Our goal is to facilitate the discussion. We want to make sure that our patients have all the information they need to make a plan that is right for them.”
Contact Texas Fertility Center to arrange for a consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist who can discuss the options for cryopreservation.
Contributors to the Diane Rehm Show segment included:
- Tamar Lewin, national reporter, The New York Times
- Naomi Cahn, professor, The George Washington University Law School, former fertility patient and author of “The New Kinship and Test Tube Families: Why the Fertility Market Needs Legal Regulation”
- Eric Widra, chair of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) Practice committee
- Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics, New York University Langone Medical Center
Frozen embryo guidelines around the U.S. and the world
- Ireland requires that all embryos produced in an IVF cycle are transferred back to the woman’s uterus.
- Louisiana has strict laws that protect the personhood status of embryos.
- California requires that the fertility specialist provide information about frozen embryo options.
- Florida requires a signed agreement from the couple.
- Massachusetts says frozen embryo advance directive contracts aren’t enforceable by the courts.