Some people find it simple to decide what to do with unused embryos but others find the decision challenging and distressing. The decision is personal and can challenge your ethical or religious views and ideas about the significance of embryos. You may not have thought about the unused embryos in storage at the start of IVF treatment. Even if you have thought about it; at the end of IVF treatment your views may have changed over time or since having children.
You may also have a different view to your partner, the donor (if you used one) or your family. In situations where one partner wants to end treatment and the other wants to continue, when partners have separated, or when one partner is willing to donate the embryos but the other partner is not, the decision is likely to be challenging.
If a joint decision cannot be reached, counselling at the clinic can help. Consider all your options carefully, including having another child. If you have a young family, it may be difficult to imagine having the energy, time, or income to manage another baby. However, your thoughts may change as your children grow older.
Causes that prevent people from using their stored embryos:
It is difficult to decide what to do with stored embryos
ART Act (2008) limits storage time for embryos to five years, with the option for the clinic to approve extension for a further five years.
Approval to extend storage of embryos beyond 10 years requires a written application to the Patient Review Panel.
The clinic where your embryos are stored will contact you when the storage time limit is approaching to ask what you want to do with your embryos.
Inform the clinic storing your embryos before moving address so that they can contact you. The clinic is required by law to dispose of the embryos when the storage time limit has expired if they do not receive instructions from you.
If the clinic where your embryos are stored does not have the option you want, you can request transfer your embryos to a clinic that can offer your preferred option.
You have to sign a consent form instructing your clinic of your chosen option.
If a donor’s gametes were used to form the embryos, the donor must also sign a consent form agreeing to your chosen option.
If, after 10 years, you still want to keep your embryos stored, you must apply to the Patient Review Panel for permission. The clinic will contact you to alert you that storage time limit is approaching and provide you with the application form you need to complete if you want to extend the storage time.
In most cases approval to extend storage is granted, provided satisfactory reasons are given. For example:
Before donating your embryos, your family and medical history is recorded.
Counselling is provided to
Counselling concerning embryo donation includes
Providing your embryos are suitable for donation; you may donate your embryos to
You have to be comfortable about donating your embryos.
Things to consider
You can donate your embryos to
Research may include new procedures, techniques ways to improve ART outcomes or improve embryos survival. Each person whose gametes have been used to form the embryo has to sign consent to the specific research project for which the embryos will be used. You will be given written information about the research study for which your embryo/s may be used, and an opportunity to talk to someone about it. As many more embryos than needed are offered for research they may be discarded.
The embryos are stored in straws ‘plastic tubes’. Straws are removed from cold storage by the embryologist and left at room temperature for at least 24 hours. They are then discarded. You may take the straws with the laboratory succumbed embryos home.
Once a decision is made; a sense of loss or relief could be felt; however every response is legitimate.
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