Donating Parents: Embryo Adoption

Many couples find themselves in a bit of dilemma in regards to what they should/can do with the frozen embryos they no longer need. There are options besides simply allowing the embryos to thaw and then die. These options vary from country to country and even in different parts of the same country. But they're options worth looking into.

Your Choices

You have the right to release your frozen embryos to science for research. Scientists will conduct experiments on the embryos including embryonic stem cell research. Not everyone fits the qualification process. If this is of interest to you, ask your doctor about the process and any available programs.

Most clinics have policies and procedures regarding the disposal of remaining embryos. Some people may choose to have some sort of commemorating ceremony as the embryo is thawed if the clinic offers that option. Then the embryos are discarded. Another option offered by clinics is to have the embryos thawed and then transferred into the woman's uterus during a non-fertile time in her menstruation cycle.

Some clinics allow couples to keep their embryos frozen indefinitely. Scientists don't know how long a frozen embryo will remain viable, but there is documented proof that children have been born from frozen embryos that have been stored in a cryo bank for more than 12 years. If you choose to keep your embryos frozen, you will need to pay annual storage fees. Your clinic will probably move the embryos to a long term storage location off site.

Some places allow you to donate your unneeded embryos to an infertile couple. The process can be anonymous or you may choose the family who will receive your embryos.

Embryo Adoption vs. Embryo Donation

The two processes are basically the same. It's just a matter of perspective and psychology. Couples giving away their extra embryos tend to prefer the term donation. The term "donation" tends to be considered as giving a gift and provides the necessary emotional separation many couples seek. This emotional separation isn't the same if the phrase "placing for adoption" is used.

Families on the receiving end of the donated embryos tend to use the term embryo adoption. The hope is that there will be a child born from the gift and the term "adoption" makes more sense emotionally because children are adopted, not donated. The term "adoption" also implies the transfer of parental rights in the same way there would be with a traditional adoption.

Embryo donation and embryo adoption are terms that are often used interchangeably even though the process of sharing your embryos isn't a true adoption. Under current law a true adoption is the placement of a child after the child is born. That said, there are still legal documents to be signed by both parties in an embryo donation. These documents are as legally binding as traditional adoption documents.

The Donation Process

The process donation varies from clinic to clinic. Donations made through a fertility clinic tend to be anonymous. The clinic often allows the donors to specify some of the requirements they would like to see in the recipient couple. Directed donations are usually done through an agency, although occasionally clinics allow this type of donation as well.

An adoption agency will often allow the family to specifically choose who will receive their embryos. They can often determine the level of contact they'll have with the family if the donated embryos become a full-grown, to-term baby.

In the majority of donation programs, the recipient couple is screened for infectious disease and overall reproductive health. Sometimes their ability to parent is evaluated. If an adoption agency is involved in the donation procedure, a more thorough evaluation of the recipient couple is done. The agency will often provide the adopting parent with parenting training as well as extra assistance and guidance as the child grows.


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