Why aren’t embryos available for donation or adoption anyway?

October 17, 2008 | By:

I know Mel from Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters (http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/) asked me this question ages ago (sorry Mel, I should have gotten to it sooner, but I knew I was going to write this article and if I waited I could give you a better answer . . . hopefully this is the better answer!):

Why aren’t there more frozen embryos available for donation/adoption and why are the majority of those people with frozen embryos not able to donate them when they want to??

The answer is two-fold. 

First: The biggest stumbling block to making embryos eligible for donation has to do with FDA regulations regarding screening for infectious diseases.  Many, many of the cryopreserved embryos in storage today are not eligible for donation because at the time the embryo was created, the genetic parents of that embryo (either one or both of them) were not screened for certain infectious diseases, tests which are now required to be performed in order to make that embryo eligible for donation.  At the time many of these frozen embryos were created, the FDA did not require the infectious disease screening and thus the embryos are now not eligible for donation because NOW the FDA requires the screening before an embryo can be donated.  Did that make sense?  If not, leave a comment and I will try and clarify.

Next problem: The FDA regulations and the implications of the testing are so misundersttod that even today, when the screening is MANDATED, the people undergoing the IVF are NOT always informed by the medical personnel at the clinic where they are being treated that, should they ever want to donate any embryos for purposes of a third-party’s conception that both genetic parents MUST be tested for these infectious diseases.  Let me use an example to help understand the distinction about how the testing might have a greater impact on you than someone else:  when the embryo will be created using donor eggs the egg donor is automatically screened by your clinic pursuant to the FDA regs.; otherwise she cannot donate the eggs to the recipient(s).  If the recipient(s) want to donate one of the embryos created using the donor’s eggs, the male gamete provider (sometimes known as a husband) also has to have the infectious disease screening.  I cannot tell you how many times my clients go to their clinic and have to ASK to have the husband tested in addition to the donor.  I believe the FDA regs require both gamete providers to be tested now, but it would appear from my clients’ experiences that on more than one occasion the clinic or the person at the clinic with whom they are speaking (and I am trying to be fair, it is possible that my clients were talking to the wrong people who didn’t know about the FDA issues I am blogging about) indicated that the husband would not otherwise have been tested unless they had specifically requested it!

SO . . . Let’s say that tomorrow you are going in for egg retrieval and you and your partner want the right to donate any embryos you don’t use, did your clinic tell you that both you and your partner have to be tested?  Did they test you both, twice?  Did they even ask you whether you might want to donate?  I bet not.

So, Mel.  To answer your question.  It all comes down to when the embryos were created in relation to the FDA regs and whether both gamete providers were appropriately screened when the embryos were created.

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