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Does Your Clinic Know How to Get Ahold of You?

a blog by Julie Monacelli, October 22, 2013

Does your fertility clinic know how to get ahold of you? What kind of agreement do you have with your clinic in the event they were to close? If you have eggs, sperm or embryos in cryopreservation at your fertility clinic it is important the information they have is kept current. In British Columbia, the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is filing a petition with the Supreme Court to have the specimens from a government owned clinic disposed of because the clients they belong to can’t be located. I’m not talking about a couple of people that can’t be found, I am talking about thousands of samples left behind.

When the clinic closed in November, the staff attempted to contact the clients asking if they wished to have the specimens transferred to another clinic or destroyed. Only 341 clients responded with their wishes, another 847 didn’t leaving 4,036 specimens are orphaned consisting of 2,969 sperm and 1,067 embryo. With the agreement that each client signed, specimens are allowed to be destroyed under certain situations, with clinic closure listed among them.

Specimens are currently being stored at a cost of $1,900 per day. There’s no available funding, and clinic staff has been given notices of their layoff. The PHSA states the destruction of the specimens is the “only viable option.” This is sparking controversy as the Right to Life Society states reproductive technologies are unethical because they lead the destruction of human life. Egg donation is legal in Vancouver, B.C. and there are a few other clinics available in the area that currently providing this service that they could transfer the embryos to so others could use them.

It’s truly unfortunate that these specimens will be discarded. There are many recipients that could benefit from them if the client could be notified to donate them. Personally, I can't imagine leaving behind embryos. If they are in the freezer in a clinic, that means there was a good amount of work put in to get them there. Does it become less important to keep track of them once you have achieved a pregnancy? (Still working on that myself). If someone else makes the decision to discard them, does that make the moral choice easier between donation to another recipient, destruction or donating to research? Does lack of action constitute action?

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