CDC statistics put the number of cryopreserved embryos in the United States at over 400,000. Thanks to advancements in medical technology, tens of thousands of couples are able to grow their families with the help of in vitro fertilization (IVF).
However, as anyone who goes through IVF knows all too well, it is rare that the exact number of embryos needed to create your family are the number of embryos produced in the medical process. More often, couples complete their family and have cryopreserved embryos left over without a clear plan as to what to do with them.
At the same time, thousands of couples and individuals are out there hoping to start their family, but are unable to do so for a variety of reasons – whether it be a woman’s medical diagnosis that she will be unable to conceive with her own eggs or a same-sex male couple naturally lacking half the necessary genetic material to have a child of their own.
Embryo donation/adoption presents an obvious solution that satisfies the genetic parents desire to allow their embryos to see their full potential as well as a path toward a family to those needing assistance.
Although embryo donation presents a simple solution to a simple problem, it comes with a number of complex legal and ethical issues. Legally, most states, by default, view embryo donation like egg or sperm donation where an individual or couple can transfer legal rights in the embryos as one would with property. State adoption statutes, which allow a genetic parent to back out of an adoption agreement and assert parental rights to the resulting child, generally do not include embryos and in a majority of states do not apply to the transfer of embryo rights.
Many well-respected agencies promote embryo “adoption” programs, and have intended recipient parents jump through the same hoops as would be required of a couple adopting a child that has already been born – including a home study and criminal background check.
Regardless of whether you are donating directly or using an intermediary agency or clinic, an attorney plays a vital role in the process of transferring rights to the embryos and ensuring that parental rights to the child are firmly with the intended parents. An attorney can help you navigate the multiple pitfalls and warn you of the unsettled areas of the applicable law in your jurisdiction.
If you are considering embryo donation or adoption – whether it be as the party selflessly donating his or her embryos or as the couple accepting a donation to start or grown your own family – it is best to protect yourself and your loved ones by employing the services of an experienced assisted reproductive attorney in your area.