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I got Baby Proofed!

September 23, 2011 | By: | Filed under: adoption, Age and Infertility, child free living, Egg Donation, infertility in the media, IVF, Personal Musings, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction, Thoughts on Choosing an Egg Donor

Summer reading lists.  What was on yours?  I read several great books including one which much to my surprise dealt with infertility, adoption, egg donation, embryo donation, sperm donation, single parenthood, and child-free living AND didn’t offend me!!  Not only did it manage to avoid offending me (a pretty hard thing to do when you are writing on topics so near and dear to my heart) but it dealt with these topics with such accuracy and such insight that I had to ask my colleagues what the deal was — had this author been infertile and I didn’t know about it??????

The book is “Baby Proof” by Emily Giffin (author of Something Borrowed, recently made into a movie with Kate Hudson).

Written in the first person, the author is struggling through marital problems and decisions about whether or not to have a child.  As she is trying to sort out her own issues, her sister is going through treatment for infertility.  Author Emily Giffin does an amazing job of both describing the issues a person faces when contemplating living a life without having children (and the condemnation that may come with that decision).  And she does an even better job describing what her sister is going through and issues involved with egg donation and the dreaded NOvary, fears about birth mothers, open adoption — heck she even accurately addresses the differences between embryo donation and embryo adoption and the misuse of terminology . . . .  Seriously, you cover that one accurately (as did Ms. Giffin) and I HAVE to put you on the Stork Lawyer’s recommended reading list!!

Baby Proof is a great read and one that very clearly articulates the very complex landscape of third party assisted reproduction and adoption.  I tend to be really harsh and judgmental when it comes to reading other people’s — especially fertile people’s — interpretation of my world (both the part I live on a day-to-day basis and the part I work in) and my hat’s off to Ms. Giffin!  Baby Proof is politically and legally correct down to its core and it is still a fascinating read.

Baby Proof gives us a multi-faceted view of  the myriad of complicated emotional and legal issues faced by infertile couples and singles.  If you are going through infertility don’t be afraid to read this book.  It’s not preachy, critical, judgmental, hurtful, or voyeuristic.  Baby Proof looks at the issues infertile women face every day and with the precision of a plastic surgeon and her scalpel, the author manages to peel apart the very delicate skin (issues) involved when you’re dealing with ovarian reserve issues, third-party assisted reproduction, adoption, as well as the concerns women face as their biological clock ticks away and they lack a partner to help make a baby.

It’s a fun read and manages to be educational at the same time.  I totally was caught off guard.  I thought this was going to be some light chic lit for summer vaca.  Was I ever wrong!  For the first time in a very long time, I wound up thinking and marveling at the ability of someone who doesn’t live my life to totally understand my life.

I may know that she interviewed a reproductive lawyer but I still have to believe that she knows more about this topic than what one can learn from spending an afternoon being educated by someone like me.  I can’t help but think she must have more insight into infertility than just an interview would bring.  I mean she really GETS IT.  I tend to think that you can only understand this pain if you’ve lived it.  Granted the character in the book is going through a life crisis and is incredibly intellectual and so these issues are discussed through a filter of self-analysis . . . but even that, the self-analysis part of it, leads me to wonder if there isn’t some personal connection to infertility that I am unaware of.  Maybe I will re-read the acknowledgment section?  Maybe I missed a thank you to someone who shared their heart.  But if I didn’t miss it, then this is one book that understands the infertile woman (and maybe will help people find their way through their infertility to consider an option of family building that without this book they might not have understood or considered).

It’s been a long week and I am brain dead.  I hope I made the point I wanted to . . . I don’t typically think that it’s possible to understand what we go through and I don’t typically find that people get the legal issues involved in what I do everyday.  You know I analyze every movie and magazine article looking and hoping to find an accurate portrayal of the path to parenthood when you’re not a fertile person.  Did I finally just find one??

I think so.  Maybe I won’t just re-read the acknowledgments. Maybe I will re-read this book.  This might be a first.

Thanks Emily.  You done us proud.

 



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Egg Donation Agreements – what’s up with this anyway?

August 5, 2011 | By: | Filed under: Deadly Silence, Egg Donation, IVF, Personal Musings, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction, Thoughts on Choosing an Egg Donor

If you are going through an egg donation right now or are considering it, or know someone who is: Listen up!

I have to say I have a little bug up my arse today.  I just finished writing an article for the American Bar Association’s Family Advocate magazine, talking about why you need to draft egg donation agreements and what you need to include in them.  I also have been working on the same issue in my e-book.  But what’s really got me peeved is the amount of explaining I have to do with potential clients, or just people calling for a consult, about why egg donation agreements are so important.

In two words: parental rights.

I don’t know whether it is agencies trying to save their clients’ money or whether its clinics trying to make things easier but let me tell you that the consent forms you sign at your clinic doesn’t provide you and your soon to be larger family in the event your child gets sick and you need medical information from you donor (just one of the many benefits that can be addressed in an egg donation agreement).  And any representation that anyone makes to you about someone living in a “donor friendly” state thus you don’t have to be worried about parental rights, is only 1/4 correct.  If you are lucky enough to live in a state with an egg donation statute that is a huge plus, but I bet you anything that statute says something about the fact the someone, preferably you and your donor, sign some document stating that this statute is going to apply to your relationship and your donor isn’t going to have any rights or responsibilities with respect to any child conceived from your donation.

And even if the statute doesn’t require a legal document, egg donation agreements state the parties’ intent throughout the agreement and the law in the United States pretty much consistently relies on the parties’ intent as they enter into third party assisted reproductive arrangements, so statute or no statute, having a legal document that addresses your intent is critical.

There are ten key points on which you want to express your intent.  Other than parental rights, can you guess what the other nine might be?

This is your baby folks — or this is a baby you don’t want to have responsibility for if you are an egg donor.  This is a family and this is the rest of your life.  Why wouldn’t you take the time to at least speak with a reproductive lawyer in your area about whether the steps you are taking are sufficient to protect you and your family, or you from having an unwanted family?  One of my clients and I had this discussion one day.  Their agency was telling them that they didn’t need an egg donation agreement and that it was a waste of money and time.  Once I explained my top ten reasons to have an egg donation agreement, my former client was speechless for a few minutes.  And then he responded with:  “when you put it that way, it seems like it’s kind of a no-brainer. . . . ”

I understand — all reproductive lawyers understand how expensive this process is and how overwhelming it is.  We all want the same thing for you.  A protected family or lack thereof.  If you can’t afford our fees, most of us will try and work with you but in the grand scheme of things what you spend on your egg donation agreement is pennies compared to what you are spending on the rest of the process and if you look at its value over time, well in the words of my former client, I think it’s a no brainer.

So anyone want to take a shot at the other 9 things on my top ten list?  Egg donation agreements run about 30 pages.  What the heck do we put in the agreement that could possibly make it so long?

Thanks for listening to me vent.  I look forward to posting a link to the article I wrote for the Family Advocate and I look forward to the publication of my e-book where I answer all these questions.  But in the meantime, feel free to ask me about it.  It’s your family or someone else’s . . . you should know what you might be missing.

 

p.s. this post wasn’t proofed so please forgive typos.



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Some thoughts on making egg donation work

May 13, 2010 | By: | Filed under: Egg Donation, Thoughts on Choosing an Egg Donor

As I get closer to finishing my E-Book on egg donation, I seem to have more and more clients asking me some of the essential nuts and bolts questions about egg donation.  It is urging me to write faster and get the first of the three book series finished.  In the meantime, I have taken an old article I wrote for the then Hartford Chapter of RESOLVE on egg donation, and modified it for this blog post.

Here’s How One Woman Made Egg Donation Work:

Through the gift(s) provided by an egg donor, many infertile women are now able to experience pregnancy; sharing their thoughts, feelings, blood supply and the sound of their voice with their baby; and to deliver their child into the world.  The success rates offered by many egg donation programs are staggering (nearing the 70% mark at most clinics), making this one of the more popular options in modern family building for women with diminished ovarian reserve or other issues of egg quality.

Egg donation is often so successful that you can potentially build your entire family from one egg donation cycle.  Of course not every egg donation results in a pregnancy; but more often than not a carefully selected donor not only gets the recipient mother pregnant but there are extra embryos frozen for future family building.

Let us consider Janet[1], and her experience with egg donation.  Janet is in her late thirties and after several failed IVF cycles, Janet’s doctors told her that her best chances for becoming a mother were through egg donation or adoption.  Janet wanted to experience pregnancy, and so chose to pursue egg donation.

After doing research, Janet decided to work with an egg donation agency, rather than using her clinic’s in-house program. While some clinics are very flexible, Janet found she had more options when using an egg donation agency.  By working with an agency Janet had greater flexibility in choosing her donor, didn’t have to share eggs with another infertile family, and would have greater control over her finances.  Because she was on a tight budget, most of the agencies she spoke with encouraged Janet to select a donor who lived near the clinic she would be using, thus avoiding substantial travel expenses.  Using an agency, Janet also had a greater selection of donors with compensation rates to fit her budget, compared with the fixed rates offered by most clinics.

One donor Janet considered (we’ll call her Leslie[2]), was twenty-six years old, single, had near perfect SAT scores, attended an Ivy League college, graduated at the top of her class and was attending medical school.  Despite Leslie’s outstanding academic credentials (which sometimes result in higher compensation rates) Leslie’s requested compensation was within the middle range of both ASRM’s and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies’ (SART)[3] guidelines for egg donor compensation: $3,000-$7,000 per donation.  Leslie also visibly resembled Janet and lived near their fertility clinic thus helping to make the cycle more affordable for Janet and her partner.  Leslie seemed like the perfect donor.

Leslie, however, had no “track record” donating eggs.  She had never been an egg donor before and didn’t have any children of her own.  Although statistically, carefully screened first-time (or “unproven”) donors have the same success rates in helping infertile women/couples achieve pregnancy, Janet was concerned that she would spend money to have Leslie donor undergo the first part of the necessary screening process, only to find out that Leslie was not sufficiently fertile and had been disqualified from being an egg donor.

Janet and her partner were also considering matching with a donor named “Julie”.   Julie also was twenty-six, had high SAT scores, had attended college, and had never been an egg donor before.  Julie was requesting the same compensation as had Leslie ($5,000) and lived near Janet’s clinic.  However, Julie was married, and had two-and-half-year old twins and a one-year old baby.  Julie was clearly fertile (she had children) and thus would be more likely to produce healthy eggs, which to Janet and her partner meant she presented a lower risk of being “screened out” by their fertility clinic.

Once Janet and her partner selected Julie as their donor, Janet’s egg donation agency presented them with a list of attorneys to help prepare their egg donation agreement, and it arranged for Julie to be represented by separate counsel in connection with the negotiation and drafting of their agreement. The egg donation agreement is a critical aspect of the egg donation process and all parties should be represented by independent counsel.  The egg donation agreement will protect your rights as parents and govern your relationship with your donor for years to come.  You should have the right to select your own attorney, one who is an experienced reproductive lawyer.

Each egg donation agreement is unique; some agreements provide for complete disclosure of names and addresses and others are completely anonymous.  Whatever your comfort level or that of your donor may be regarding future contact, please consider that your agreement should ensure that you can contact your donor in case of a future medical emergency.  Among other things, your egg donation agreement should specify your rights to utilize and/or dispose of the eggs/embryos created from the cycle, require that your donor follow medical directions, address what happens if your donor breaches your agreement or if the cycle needs to be rescheduled for some reason (like a death in the donor’s family), and/or how medical bills are handled if she experiences a complication like ovarian hyper-stimulation.

Within four months of the time Janet initially contacted their egg donation agency, Janet, Julie and their respective partners had negotiated their agreement and their cycle got underway.  Julie produced seventeen eggs of which fifteen fertilized.  Janet conceived a beautiful baby girl on the first embryo transfer and when Janet’s daughter was about a year-old, Janet and her partner went back and did a frozen embryo transfer; this time conceiving twin girls (it is admittedly rare for a frozen cycle to result in a twin pregnancy but in this case it did)!


[1] Janet is a combination of several of my clients, a fictitious character created for purposes of this blog to help demonstrate a typical egg donation process from a more “real life” perspective.

[2] Names have been changed to protect people’s privacy.

[3] ASRM (The American Society for Reproductive Medicine) and SART are related organizations which, among other things, establish ethical and regulatory guidelines that many clinics and agencies agree to comply with.  For more information, visit their websites:  #www.ASRM.org# and #www.sart.org#

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Choosing an Egg Donor

June 12, 2008 | By: | Filed under: Thoughts on Choosing an Egg Donor

So, I just took an interesting call from a client. She was very confused about the benefits of using an experienced or “proven” egg donor versus using a first time donor. A proven donor is one who has either been pregnant and/or had a baby herself or gotten recipient parents pregnant (or both!). A first time donor has never cycled before so her egg quality and recruitment is an unknown.

I tried, and Danielle tried, to explain to her that it doesn’t really matter either way. In fact, I just learned at that amazing conference in Charleston that first time, “unproven,” donors have the same success rates as proven donors. Donors are so carefully screened these days for their fertility that approximately 70% of donors will get the recipient parents pregnant; regardless of whether they have cycled before or not with another recipient family.

But, alas my client couldn’t be persuaded. Much to my surprise as most of clients will only work with a proven donor. This woman was terribly afraid that working with an experienced donor meant she had a greater likelihood of having the “bad” cycle happen during her match with this donor, and that she’d get a crappy bunch of eggs. Statistics don’t bear this fear out at all . . . but since she’s just as likely to get pregnant either way (proven or unproven donor); I suppose it doesn’t really matter?



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Egg Donors

June 10, 2008 | By: | Filed under: Thoughts on Choosing an Egg Donor

So I just got back from attending the 10th annual Oocyte Donation Conference in Charleston, SC (man was it hot and humid!!) and I must say I not only had a fantastic time but I learned a ton! One of the things that caught my attention were tips and suggestion for how to choose and screen an egg donor for a clinic or agency’s donor program (as opposed to a recipient parent choosing an egg donor), and statistics about success rates for egg donations.

I have always advised my clients that it is better to choose a “proven” donor than one who has never been pregnant, had a baby, or donated to a couple that got pregnant. Guess what? Turns out, I was wrong! Statistics clearly showed me – and let’s face it, I am swayed by stats – that a properly screened first time donor has the same success rate as a “proven” donor. So I guess I need to start advising people that they can choose just about any donor that feels right to them, and not worry so much about whether she’s got a proven track record. Because according to the gurus in Charleston, that first time donor is just as likely to get a recipient mom pregnant as the donor who has cycled two or three times and gotten the recipients pregnant on at least one or more of those cycles! Go figure!!



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