Frequently Asked Questions
General Information on Embryo Adoption / Donation
How is embryo adoption different from embryo donation?
Medical staff tends to use the term embryo donation rather than embryo adoption because from their perspective it is a medical procedure they are providing to their patients.
There are many fertility clinics throughout the country that have in-house embryo donation programs. That particular clinic’s patients are the donors to that program. That particular clinic’s patients are the recipients waiting to use the donated embryos. Clinics may or may not have enough available donor embryos for the recipients waiting to use them. These programs generally manage the exchange of embryos anonymously.
Adoption agencies or organizations who identify as providing embryo adoption services use the term embryo adoption for several reasons:
1. They believe that the established best practices of adoption should be used because the end-result of a successful embryo donation is the birth of a baby. This baby is not genetically related to her parents. Throughout the world, this is recognized as adoption.
2. They believe that open communication between the donor and adopting families is in the best interests of everyone, especially the children. Children have a right to information regarding their origins in a family. They should have access to information about their genetic roots.
3. They believe that the best practices of adoption will provide all parties involved with valuable social and emotional support.
4. They support privacy over secrecy.
In what ways can our practice benefit by becoming involved with an embryo adoption program?
When a clinic chooses to partner with an embryo adoption program, the benefits positively impact both the clinic’s patients and business. This partnership can move future liability regarding embryo placement issues from the clinic to the agency. The agency maintains the social, emotional, and legal education and documentation of embryo adoption.
The beneficial relationship and responsibilities of clinics and agencies can be broken down in the following ways:
- Embryo adoption agencies frequently have donated embryos waiting for recipient families and your clinic may have a list of patients waiting for embryos
- Patients may be able to receive donated embryos more quickly through an embryo adoption agency
- The clinic offers direct assistance from the agency to patients for embryo disposition decisions
- Agency manages the program, not the clinic, unbiased matching completed by agency
- Future communication between parties is the agency responsibility not the clinic
- Reduces clinic paperwork and future liabilities
- Clinic controls embryo/birth statistics by keeping embryos in-house
- New patients are directed to the clinic, bringing new revenue
- Uses embryos created, frozen and thawed by the clinic
- Reduces embryo storage at the clinic
- Reduced/eliminated transportation of embryos between clinics
What are the benefits of embryo donation through an adoption agency?
Adoption agencies allow the donor to have some level of involvement with the selection of the recipient of their set of embryos. This may be through personalized matching with help from agency staff members or it may be an online matching database.
When the adoption agency requires the adoption home study, the donor family knows that the potential adopting families have been vetted by a rigorous educational and criminal background check process. The home study also prepares the adopting family to be prepared for some of the unique aspects of being a parent to an embryo adopted child.
What is the cost to donate embryos?
Most programs do not charge families a fee for donating their remaining embryos. Donors are expected to continue to pay their storage fees until the contracts are finalized and the embryos are shipped to the FET clinic.
When embryo sets being donated are more challenging to find a recipient the agency will sometimes ask the donor to pay a fee to help off-set the cost making them donor-eligible (e.g., FDA infectious disease testing).
Donors often wonder if the recipient will reimburse them for their IVF expenses or past storage fees. This happens rarely, if ever.
Medical Information and Requirements
What type of patient medical information will our clinic receive about the donated embryos?
Your clinic will receive:
- Infectious disease screening results (an FDA requirement)
- Embryology reports
- Embryo freezing and thawing protocols
It is likely that the program your patients are working with will be able to contact the donating parents and their clinic to obtain additional information as necessary.
Storage and Transportation of Embryos
Where are the embryos stored during the donation and adoption process?
The embryos remain stored at the original IVF clinic or at a long term storage facility designated by the donor family during the adoption process. The genetic family pays for storage during this time.
Some embryo adoption programs will have storage programs to help offset the costs of storage while the genetic family is awaiting their match.
Who handles the coordination of the embryos' transportation?
It is the responsibility of the patient’s embryo adoption program or attorney to coordinate the embryos’ travel between the facilities.
What are best practices regarding embryo storage?
Your practice may have time limits regarding storage of embryos. After that period of time has expired you may require patients to move their embryos to an off-site storage facility or give them the option to have the embryos discarded.
If your clinic already stores embryos off-site or is considering moving them, it is critical for you to understand the rules governing the storage of these embryos from your patient’s perspective. Be sure to read the fine print and understand the requirements and costs of storage and removal from storage at any storage facility.
Storage and Transportation of Embryos
Guidelines for Embryo Recipients
What are the legalities surrounding embryo adoption and donation?
The adoption process involves agreement and relinquishment forms, which are legal contracts between the donor and recipient families.
The contracts formalize the donor family’s relinquishment of their parental rights prior to the embryo being transferred to the recipient family.
Parties involved should note that embryos have a special legal status that is yet to be clearly defined. While many courts are reluctant to classify embryos as property, they also do not characterize them as human beings. As a result, embryo adoption programs may differ in how they define embryos in their legal agreements. Some may refer to embryo donation as a transfer of property while others may incorporate traditional adoption language into their legal documents.
Is there a limit on the length of time our recipient patients have to use their adopted embryos?
Time limits are usually incorporated into the legal contract language for the transfer of embryos from one party to another and will vary by program.
What are the correct protocols in the event there are embryos remaining after our recipient patients have completed treatment?
In an embryo adoption program, it is customary for the adopting family to return any embryos they do not plan to use for their own family building to the adoption program. Either the original donor family or the recipient family can determine and choose a second recipient family for the embryos. This issue is usually detailed in the contracts signed by both parties.