Four Options for Embryos in Frozen Storage

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Families who have undergone in vitro fertilization to create their family, may have embryos remaining in frozen storage and may not realize that they have four options for disposing of their embryos. Their embryos may have remained in storage because they did not realize or understand the options that they have. These are the four options for families to consider….……..
The first option is to allow them to remain in frozen storage. Families with stored embryos often commented that they “forget” about their embryos until they receive the annual storage bill. In the US these storage fees can range from $250 – $1200 annually with the average being around $400 – $600 annually. While embryos can remain frozen and maintain their viability indefinitely, allowing them to continue in storage is “not making a decision at all.”
A second option is to thaw the embryos and allow them to die. For some, this is hard for them to embrace and for many it is not an option at all. For couples who struggled to have children, and were able to become pregnant through in vitro fertilization, these embryos represent success in the creation of their family. Additionally, these embryos represent precious potential life and the family does not wish to intentionally allow them to perish.
Another choice to consider is donating their embryos to research. While this may appear to be a very worthy consideration for their embryos, the family should know that there have been no cures or treatments discovered through embryonic stem cell research however, there have many cures and treatments through adult stem cell research.
The fourth option for families with embryos in frozen storage is to donate them to another family. This is a growing option for many couples who desire to help another family by donating their remaining embryos. As I spoke with donors about the disposition options, I was surprised when many voiced, “I wished someone had offered us embryos, we might not have created our own.” Additionally, these families who make the decision to donate their embryos to another family speak about their deep desire to make a difference for another family and to give their embryos an opportunity for life.
As the years go by and families do not make a decision for their embryos, there is a chance that their embryos could become abandoned. A family may move and lose contact with the clinic where the embryos are stored; consequently the embryos remain in limbo. The clinic cannot make any disposition decisions for the embryos, but must continue to store them indefinitely. Many clinics are now including an abandonment clause in their IVF contract stating that if the annual storage fees have not been paid for a certain number of years and the clinic has made numerous efforts to contact the family during that time but with no success, that they legally have the family’s permission to thaw and destroy the embryos. While many clinics have this consent in place, very few have actually acted upon it and if the clinic chooses not to destroy them, no one except the biological parents can make the decision to donate these remaining embryos. At this point the embryos are considered “abandoned.”
While the decision for their remaining embryos can be a difficult, each family should explore their options and must come to an agreement on what is right for them.

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