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Leaving It Up to the Lab?


a blog by the editors

In this month’s column for FertilityAuthority, Attorney Melissa Brisman cites a case regarding the custody and control of frozen embryos post divorce.

In the divorce proceedings of an Ohio couple, the court upheld the provision that the lab at which their embryos were stored would assume all rights and responsibilities to dispose of or donate the embryos. Surely, I thought, I’m reading this wrong. The lab will decide whether to dispose of or donate the embryos? Couples sign contracts and consents regarding embryos created through IVF every day, and many have provisions in the case of divorce. But leaving the embryos with the lab? I checked with Brisman, and she says it’s rare that a couple would make this decision.

Couples and individuals spend time, money, and emotional and physical energy to create embryos. If they’ve used their own gametes (eggs and sperm) the embryos have their DNA. Naturally, many couples have a hard time determining what to do with excess embryos. (Excess embryos are such because the couple who created them have had children, or have exhausted their resources, or treatment is no longer an option.) So they choose to store their embryos indefinitely, or donate them to research, donate them to another couple, or thaw and discard them. Some opt to transfer embryos at a time in their cycle when they won’t implant. It’s a tough decision, no doubt.

I don’t have embryos in storage, so I can’t say from experience what I would do. But my hunch is that I’d want to be the decision-maker if they were my embryos, just to have some closure. What do you think?

Jennifer A. Redmond

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