There are five options for IVF patients to consider when it comes to their remaining frozen embryos:
1. Storage: Remaining embryos can be stored at your IVF clinic or another cryopreservation center. You would pay an annual storage fee. This gives you an option of future family growth or gives you time to make other arrangements. Please make sure you understand the fine print in your storage agreement. Because of space limitations, some clinics may only agree to store your embryos for a certain amount of time.
2. Compassionate Transfer: A “compassionate transfer” means your medical team would work with you to thaw and transfer your embryos at a time when it’s least likely for a pregnancy to occur. Not all clinics perform compassionate transfers, and those that do will charge a fee for the transfer. As is the case with most assisted family building efforts, the patient seeking a compassionate transfer of remaining embryos should seek the counsel and support of a mental health professional experienced in this area.
3. Disposition: If you (and if applicable, your partner) are resolved and your family is complete or you are certain that you will not pursue more medical intervention, you can ask your IVF clinic or storage facility to dispose of the embryos. You will likely need to sign several consent forms and other documents affirming your wish that the embryos be disposed of in this manner and there may be a cost associated with your directive. You will, however, be relieved of on-going storage fees for which you have paid since your election to freeze the embryos.
4. Donate to Research: If your clinic does not perform research, they should be able to advise you on opportunities to donate your embryos to another clinic or research center. There may be specific criteria that needs to be met, but the recipient facility can help guide you. [NOTE: If your embryos were created with donor eggs and you entered into a direct agreement with your donor (an “Egg Donation Agreement”) you should revisit that agreement to be sure that there are no restrictions as to donation of remaining embryos for scientific or medical research.]
5. Embryo Donation: In recent years, embryo donation has become a feasible option for people to start or grow their family. In this situation, you would donate your embryos to someone who would use them in their IVF cycle.
Whatever option you are considering regarding embryo disposition, you should know that it is important that you do make a disposition plan. Consider it part of the entire process and journey to resolution. Seek out the support of a mental health professional; they can help you explore the above options and can assist in putting together a plan for your remaining embryos.
Contributed by: Amy Demma, Esq., and published in the Winter 2013 Resolve…for the journey and beyond newsletter.