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Embryo Donation

Sometimes couples have more embryos than they plan to use to complete their families. This can cause both ethical and financial issues for patients who do not want to discard the embryos but also do not want to keep paying for storage for embryos that they do not plan to use. Embryo donation is a wonderful option for many patients.

At a Glance

  • Embryos can be donated to another person or to research
  • A legal consultation is highly recommended

Embryo donor for another person

Couples who become pregnant and do not desire to have another pregnancy but have embryos frozen, may have the option to donate these embryos to other couples. If an egg donor was used, her medical history, genetic history, and family history are carefully reviewed. Previous Federal Drug Administration (FDA) testing of the source of the sperm and eggs is reviewed. If this is not feasible, then embryos become “ineligible.” However, this is an FDA term and is not a practical barrier. The embryos may be used if they are appropriately labeled and the recipients have informed consent that there is a tiny risk of a sexually transmitted disease.

Embryos derived from a sexually intimate couple, created for use by the couple are exempt from the usual requirements for donor screening and testing. The FDA understands that the sexually intimate partners did not plan to donate these embryos, and they allow ineligible embryos to be donated, because otherwise these embryos could never find a home.

Any embryos which are used under such circumstances must be labeled as follows: “Advised the recipient that screening and testing of the donors were not performed at the time of cryopreservation of the reproductive cells or tissue but have been performed subsequently.” The recipient and recipient’s sexually intimate partner are screened for infectious disease using non-FDA lab testing. Embryos that are shipped to another facility are accompanied by a summary of records and appropriately labeled.

A legal consultation is highly recommended. The baby and the intended parents need protection against claims by the biological parents. We can refer you to an experienced lawyer in this unique niche of third-party reproductive law. Embryo donors, as well as sperm and egg donors, must relinquish all rights to the embryos and any child or children that may result from the transfer of such embryos.

To research

Embryos which were originally created for reproductive purposes but are not used by the intended parents, may be donated for research. Under no circumstances are embryos used in research without the prior written informed consent of the source of the eggs and sperm. Consent may be obtained either prior to or after the eggs and sperm are produced. Embryo donors providing embryos for research are fully informed about the potential risks.

Generally speaking, embryonic stem cell research is not actively being pursued. No one needs to be concerned that stem cell lines are being produced from their embryos unless specific consent has been given. If stem cells are derived from their embryos, these may be stored indefinitely and used for multiple research projects and shared among more than one investigator.

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