Embryo Disposition Options: A tool for decision making

December 1, 2013Carole 1 Comment »


You have come to the end of the IVF road and your family is complete. But you still have embryos in storage at your IVF clinic and the dread letter from your clinic has just arrived or you know it is coming. The letter will ask you, do you want to continue to store these embryos or do you want to do something else? The “something else” option can include discarding the embryos, donating the embryos to research, or donating the embryos to another person or couple for them to try to get pregnant with your embryos. What should you do? What if you and your partner do not agree on what to do? How can you decide?

Well, an organization in Australia, The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) which “provides public education and resources for professionals and the community on fertility and issues related to assisted reproductive treatment” has created a decision tool to help patients think about the topic. You can access the tool here at this link.  You can print out the six pages to use as a worksheet.

This decision tool asks you to consider the pros and cons of each option for disposition of your excess embryos. For instance, you are asked to consider the pros and cons of keeping the embryos in storage which considers scenarios such as having or not having more children in the future, needing more time to consider, fear of losing the children you have and needing extra time for your partner to process his/her thoughts on the matter. You are asked to consider these issues, add additional issues that concern you to the pro vs con list, and rank the importance of each of these situations to your decision making.

Similarly, for donation of embryos to another person, you are asked to think about how you feel about issues such as creation of genetic siblings to your own child, concerns about different values of the “adoptive” family, issues of obligation or “paying forward” to other infertile couples, future contact from this child, embryos as a potential life, etc. You might be surprised at your emotional gut reaction to these questions which is interesting, because you are doing an intellectual exercise.  The working through these issues on an intellectual level may actually reveal your true gut feeling about one issue or another, which you may have been hiding even from yourself.

The tool goes through other disposition options including donating the embryos for research and disposal without use. At the end, you are asked to decide whether you are “leaning to” one decision or another, discussing with your partner (if applicable) and planning next steps.

I like the idea of using a tool like this to open the door to discussions with your partner or even yourself. Too often, we postpone making decisions because we can’t get past the dread emotional stew that swirls around us whenever we dare to “go there”. I’d love to hear from you if you have tried this tool and whether or not you found it helpful. The creators of the site are also asking for feedback on the decision tool through an on-line survey (the link is available at the end of the decision tool).  Good Luck!!




© 2013, Carole. All rights reserved.

One response to this entry

  • It Is What It Is Says:

    As someone who has benefitted from donated embryos, I, too, like the idea of having a tool to not only open the door to discussion but to help (if that is possible) take some of the emotion out of what is often a very difficult decision.

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