Embryos — fertilized eggs can be created in a laboratory process known as IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). During IVF, if more embryos are created than needed, donation is an option. Donors can choose either to donate eggs from a fresh cycle or to freeze them for future recipients. Donating embryos can give someone else an opportunity to conceive who is facing challenges getting pregnant. Much like sperm or unfertilized eggs, embryo donations can be made publically or anonymously. In most states, it’s legally treated as a transfer of private property, and medically treated as a donation of cells or tissue.
Known donations, also known as directed donations, are donations that are made to a specific person known to recipient and their doctor. The parties involved exchange names and medical information. They also reach an agreement that everyone is comfortable with, which defines their responsibilities, levels of future contact, etc. The advantage of having a known donor is that recipients can communicate with them in the future if medical issues arise. Another advantage is the possibility of contact with biological siblings. There are many important details that must be figured out first, especially if the recipient is not going to travel to the clinic where the donation is made. These details include:
- Finding a clinic that will accept embryos from another clinic for transfer
- Finding out whether the clinic will perform FET (frozen embryo transfer) from a known donor
- Finding out what testing and screening procedures will be required by recipient and donor
- Finding out what paperwork and legal documents are required by the receiving clinic, including the timeframe required to process paperwork
Anonymous donations usually take place through an IVF clinic, but sometimes an agency can facilitate the procedure. Clinics that have a donation program offer very little information to the recipient about the donor. Donors aren’t usually involved in the process of selecting a recipient, although sometimes they set eligibility guidelines. If there is to be a possibility of future contact, an attorney is employed to preserve everyone’s anonymity, and only the attorney knows the names and locations of the donors and recipients.
Recipient and Donor Requirements
As with any medical procedure that involves donation, there are tests that must be conducted to ensure that both parties are good candidates. In the case of embryo donations, donors and recipients must be tested for:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Treponema pallidum (syphilis)
- Chlamydia trachomatis
- Neisseria gonorrhea
After testing, the screening process begins and involves a review of the medical history and test results, a physical examination, and a patient interview in which risk factors are evaluated. A potential donor can be ineligible if either the testing or screening indicates the presence of a communicable disease or risk factor. In a known donation, it is still possible for recipients to receive embryos from donors who are ineligible after they have completed the testing and screening process. In these cases, the recipients are encouraged to sign a legal waiver acknowledging informed consent, and accepting all responsibility.