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The Top Ten Things Reproductive Lawyers Can Help You With – Part 2

February 23, 2016 | By: | Filed under: anonymous sperm donation, Birth Certificates, Birth Orders, Current Affairs, Egg Donation, Embryo Disposition, Embryos, Family Building Law, Frozen Embryos, fund management in third-party assisted reproduction, Gestational Carrier Arrangements, infertility in the media, known sperm donation, Parentage Orders, Pre-Birth Orders, Reproductive Law, Reproductive Lawyers, Same Sex Parenting and Reproductive Law, Surrogacy, surrogacy escrow management, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction

So in Part 1 we discussed some of the agreements you might need to enter into when building your family through third-party assisted reproduction and how my colleagues and I can help you with them.  Now let’s take a look at some of the more obscure but equally important issues that might come up.

back to our top ten list:

(6) Using cryopreserved embryos in the event of a divorce or after a death.  Do you know whether you can use frozen embryos after a divorce or separation?  Did you know that this is one of the hottest legal issues in third-party assisted reproduction law (Hello Sofia!).  What if you want to conceive a child using frozen embryos after your partner dies?  Will you be a legal parent?  Will your child be entitled to inherit from your partner’s estate, or your partner’s social security benefits?  These are some of the most complicated and cutting-edge issues in reproductive law and you don’t have to be Sofia Vergara to regret not having had a thorough discussion with an attorney before you make decisions (or have a pre-conception embryo disposition agreement prepared or even just check off a box on a clinic consent form) that has the power to change your life plans.  And heck, just look at Sherri Shepherd and her battle not to have child support obligations.  That case just turns my stomach.

(7) Managing money in a surrogacy arrangement:  You may be spending over $100,000 in connection with your surrogacy or receiving tens of thousands of dollars in compensation as a surrogate.  Do you know where the money is being held?  Do you know how and when it is being paid and what documentation, if any is being provided to support the payment?  What happens if your agency goes under and the escrow account was held by the agency?  Are independent escrow managers necessary and when should you retain one?  Do the state laws which govern your surrogacy arrangement provide special rules for how and where money must be held?  How do you know if your money is safe?

(8)  Doing a home insemination:  It may be a more affordable way to conceive your child (and more intimate as compared to the stirrups in your doc’s office), but will you have a legally recognized family if you do a home insemination?  Did you know that in some states a doctor must perform the insemination in order to terminate the sperm donor’s parental rights and ensure that the intended parents are deemed legal parents?

(9) Getting your birth certificate:  How and when can you get a birth certificate with the intended parents'(s) name(s) on them?  Can you get them before the baby is born or only after birth?  Do you need to do a second or step-parent adoption?  Is the law in the State in which your baby will be born uniform throughout the State or does it vary County by County or even Judge by Judge?  Do you know what you need to do, where you need to do it and when you need to do it in order to obtain a birth certificate for your child with your name on it?  One of my colleagues has a fairly famous quote from an interview he gave about the fact that the ease with which he can or cannot obtain parentage orders sometimes comes down to the button he pushes in the elevator in the courthouse.  Are you walking into a courthouse like that?  Do you have any alternative?

(10) Understanding the impact of changing laws:  Third-party assisted reproduction is a new and emerging area of the law.  Some states have statutes governing egg and sperm donation, and surrogacy, others have only case law (or judge made) law.  Some states have statutes or laws which are unfavorable and others have laws which are favorable to different types of third-party assisted reproduction.  Some states have outdated laws that may change in the near future.  Other states have laws which may be unconstitutional given recent decisions from the United States Supreme Court, but the state may not yet be complying with or adhering to new and evolving constitutional principles.  When and how will these evolving laws impact your family building and the recognition of your family, as a family?  And as long as we are discussing the status of various state laws, doctors (as much as we love and need them in this process) don’t always fully understand the laws, especially the nuances with which my colleagues and I have become familiar.  Just as I would never try and tell my clients what their latest blood test results mean,  and my clients should not listen to me with great seriousness when I put on my honorary lab coat, they shouldn’t listen to their doctor’s advice about what they can and cannot do to build their family.  Sure, get her opinions on what options you have, but check with someone who actually practices reproductive law before you cross a type of third-party assisted reproduction off your list because your doctor tells you that option isn’t available it to you.  

My colleagues and I can help you answer most, if not all of these questions.  We can help you make smart (or smarter) choices as you begin the often complicated process of building your family using donor gametes like egg, sperm, or embryos, or with the help of a gestational surrogate.  We can protect you in almost all of the scenarios and situations discussed in this top ten list.  Reproductive lawyers are here to help you become a parent and help make sure that your legal parent-child relationship and family are recognized by the government and other people who might try to challenge your status as a mom or dad.  It’s that simple.  And it’s that important. 

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The Bizarre World of Embryo Banking. Where My Motherhood and Morality Meet.

December 7, 2012 | By: | Filed under: adoption, Check This Out, Current Affairs, Egg Donation, Financing Fertility Treament or Adoption, In the News, IVF, known sperm donation, Personal Musings, The Journey to Parenthood, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction, Thoughts on Choosing an Egg Donor, Uncategorized

Every once in a while I have true conflicts between my self as a former infertility patient and my career as a reproductive lawyer and adoption attorney.  A couple of years ago, I wrote a law review article on the disposition of frozen embryos, and whether or not talking about embryo adoption was legally correct whether the better, more appropriate terminology was/is embryo donation.  There are hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos in cryopreservation in this country where the intended parents of those embryos no longer wish to use the embryos for their own family building.  These embryos are often referred to as “leftovers” a term which somewhat disturbs me but is strictly speaking, accurate.  These embryos are “leftover”, after a family was created through IVF and now remain in a state of frozen suspension.  Many of those embryos could be used to help build another family, and be donated to an infertile couple.  There was some confusion as to whether these embryos should be placed for adoption or donated in a similar manner to egg and sperm donation and I wanted to resolve that confusion — at least for myself.  I ultimately drew the legal conclusion that the term embryo adoption isn’t really accurate because there isn’t a human being to adopt.  I could go into a lengthy analysis of how I came to that conclusion but your eyes would roll back in your head and you would probably start drooling from boredom.  So let’s just defer that analysis and argument for another day.  If you are interested, you can get a copy of the article on the web (click here).  I now happen to be a huge advocate for embryo donation.  I think it is a fabulous way to build a family.  However, these are musings for another blog.  But my article did provide some clarity to those medical facilities which are banking those frozen “leftover” embryos.

So here I have been sitting happy as a woman with a barren uterus could ever be, contemplating my holiday shopping safe and secure in my belief in, and advocacy of embryo donation.  And then I hear about this doctor in California who has a new kind of embryo bank.

Before I heard of this physician in California, I was aware of only one type of embryo bank; one where frozen “leftover” embryos are being made available for donation to infertile families.  These frozen embryos were the subject of my law review article.  This new embryo bank, however, does not contain any of these “leftover” frozen embryos.  This bank is comprised of embryos which were recently created using carefully selected donor eggs and donor sperm.  The donated eggs are fertilized with the donated sperm and the resulting embryos are frozen for future selection by hopeful intended parents.  Let’s stop briefly and note emphasis on the words “future selection”.  We will circle back to why this is relevant but I wanted to point out that these embryos are being created for future selection by wanna-be-moms and dads.

This physician has created his embryo bank in a manner to facilitate selection for all types of characteristics — everything from physical traits like blond hair and blue eyes to religious ethnicity.  Jewish embryos, who knew?  Actually, this could be fantastic for Jewish couples who need a single Jewish egg donor, and/or want to further ensure a connection with Judaism by having a genetic connection on the sperm side of life.  You have no idea how hard it can be to find a specific ethnic donor and this is something I gather this doctor has identified as a plus to his business model.  Speaking of business models, he also offers a money back guarantee.  You choose a batch of embryos to use to try and get pregnant.  If you don’t get pregnant the first time, you get two more tries using different batches of embryos.  If you don’t get pregnant, you get 100% of your money back (approx. $12,000).

Upon hearing of this embryo bank a part of me was disgusted and a part of me . . .  well I was excited.  Super excited. Especially about the money back guarantee.

The infertility patient part of me sees this as a great opportunity to get pregnant.  Frozen embryo transfers — while statistically less successful than fresh embryo transfers — can be lot easier to go through than an IVF cycle.  For me having the embryos created using donor gametes isn’t a big deal.  But if it were, I would be able to select an embryo based on whatever I might deem important.   So, yeah baby!  Let’s have another baby!  Give me this doctor’s number.  I am in!  Or perhaps it would be better to say the embryos are [going to be] in [me]!

But the legal scholar, academic, intellectual, lawyer part of my brain is sitting here vomiting and is pissed that I am putting these thoughts onto cyber-paper and making an argument in favor of this horrific new kind of embryo bank.  Stork Lawyer Reality check:  It is pretty much illegal to create embryos without first having identified intended parents as recipients for those embryos and from what I understand, there are no intended parents waiting for those embryos when this doctor is creating them.  The intended parents don’t enter the picture until the embryos are selected from the database and someone signs up with this program to undergo an embryo transfer procedure.  This is where that whole “future selection” comes in.

The laws regarding assisted reproduction essentially come down to intent to parent before conception: in a third party assisted reproductive arrangement there is supposed to be a contract or other document signed before the embryos are created, whereby intended parent(s) agree to be legally and morally responsible for the embryos and children that may result from the ART process.  In this case there is no such contract or preexisting intended parent.  The embryos subject of my law review article all had intended parents before the egg and sperm came together to create the now frozen “leftover” embryo.  But this new type of embryo banking lacks that component.  There are no intended parents choosing the eggs and the sperm with the immediate intent to parent.

And speaking of all those “leftover” embryos shouldn’t we first be dealing with and using all the existing cryopreserved embryos before we go about creating them? And what about the potential that this doctor may be creating even more “leftover” frozen embryos (what happens to those embryos that don’t get selected)?

Let’s not analyze whether this is baby selling.  I can’t, or won’t go there, although many others have.  Consanguinity, or the risk of an individual created through donor gametes marrying or having a child with a genetic sibling is another issue that has been raised.  The number of families that are created using any individual egg or sperm donor’s genetic material is a concern not to be overlooked or ignored.  These donors presumably are also donating through egg donation agencies, fertility clinics or sperm or egg banks.  We all have been astonished by stories of men who have discovered that they have fathered over a 100 children as a result of their donation to sperm banks — there is a significant risk that through this new type of embryo banking program not only will children have multiple full siblings running around but that egg and sperm donors have created half siblings through other programs.

Even more, if I understand this program correctly (and I am pretty sure I do) batches of embryos are being created which contain embryos which are full siblings to embryos which are contained in other or separate batches of embryos.  It sounds like  it is possible that three separate donations could take place using these three batches of embryos.  Okay, follow-me slowly here for a minute because this is a little bit like playing Twister.  In other words,  three batches of embryos each of which contain embryos which are full genetic siblings to embryos in other batches, could be donated to three different families thereby creating three separate families whose children are all full genetic siblings to each other!

Do the recipients of these embryos know how many full genetic siblings their child may have?  Are the donors aware?

It is supposedly almost impossible from a statistical standpoint for one of these children to marry its full sibling.  But when you add in the half siblings that could be created through other donation programs, and/or smaller ethnic groups for whom donation can be a challenge because of the limited number of donors available matching their ethnicity, doesn’t the risk become somewhat more than insignificant?  And even if it doesn’t, I worry that people don’t have enough information about how many genetic siblings are out there whether they are full or half siblings.

But I get it, I get why he did it.  Especially for someone with an ethnic background this type of program would be hugely popular and let’s not forget the money back guarantee.  We’re all broke after trying IVF multiple times, why the heck not take out a second mortgage if you know you will be able to pay it back if you don’t get pregnant?  Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

I am at war with myself.  I want to go running to that clinic and pick out an embryo tomorrow.  And then my lawyer (self) tells me to stop and think about whether I want to participate in, and thereby endorse a practice which I believe, in my own legal opinion, is legally impermissible, and legally and medically unethical.  Is my desire to be a gestational mother stronger than my moral center?  Good question.

 

 

The views expressed in this blog are the views and opinions of this author and are not intended to provide or constitute legal advice or a statement of the laws as they may pertain third-party assisted reproduction within the United States.

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Infertility Treatment and Insurance — Speak Up While You Can!

January 30, 2012 | By: | Filed under: Announcements, Current Affairs, Financing Fertility Treament or Adoption, Insurance for Infertility, IVF, The Journey to Parenthood

There is an important deadline tomorrow:

Public commentary (from you!!) is needed to demand that infertility treatment coverage be included as an essential benefit under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  To include your voice and make sure your concerns and needs are addressed contact the Department of Health and Human Services before January 31st, 2012.

The decision to include infertility treatment as a covered essential benefit falls solely in the hands of Kathleen Sebelius, US Secretary of Health and Human Services.  You can email her at

EssentialHealthBenefits@cms.hhs.gov

For more information please read http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Infertility-Matters–Demanding-Essential-Benefit-Coverage.html?soid=1101342191383&aid=B44Urr44QiU

 

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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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The Stork Lawyer Economic Stimulus Plan of 2009 is Here!

April 16, 2009 | By: | Filed under: Current Affairs, Financing Fertility Treament or Adoption, Questions about the Office

As Tax Day comes and goes and so many people are struggling both with infertility and paying bills, and praying that tax refunds will help pay for treatment or adoption expenses, we’ve been asking, what can we do to help?

Well, we’ve decided to extend a little economic stimulus package of our own! The Stork Lawyer Economic Stimulus Plan of 2009 is designed to make all legal services for family building more affordable for everyone!

First, we’d like to remind you that we offer a free egg donation contract per fiscal quarter to qualifying individuals and families. To make this even more meaningful, we are changing the criteria for applicants to make it easier to qualify for a free contract. Although our website has not yet been updated, we urge anyone who would like to apply for a free egg donation contract due to their difficulty in paying the expenses associated with their egg donation cycle to submit an application. We will send them the criteria by email (until it is posted on our website), and we will consider all applications submitted regardless of whether they strictly meet our criteria.

Second, we are offering a 15% discount on our legal services for egg donation and gestational carrier arrangements to all new clients. Our normal fees have been slashed! For the next fiscal quarter and perhaps even longer, our new rates will reflect an across the board reduction of 15%.

Third, for clients who retain us during the second fiscal quarter of 2009, we are offering flat fee billing arrangements on all parentage orders, and on most of our adoption services. By establishing flat fee billing arrangements we hope to reduce people’s worry regarding how much their legal fees will be to adopt domestically and/or to establish their genetic relationship with their child conceived through third party assisted reproductive arrangements.

If you have any questions or require specific information for yourself or even your friends, please do not hesitate to contact me and I would be happy to speak with you about making your family building more affordable. You can reach me by email at Liz@StorkLawyer.com

Please check our website frequently as we will be providing specific details regarding:

The Stork Lawyer Economic Stimulus Plan of 2009!

Thank you,

Elizabeth Swire Falker, Esq.

storklawyerlogoselectrsml2bannerregistered2

p.s. Nothing in this blog shall be deemed to create an attorney-client relationship and we may not be able to provide legal counsel and advice to all persons who contact the office in response to this blog post due to ethical restrictions imposed upon the office. However, please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or to see if we can assist you.

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