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Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

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Unused Embryos Vex Infertility Patients

Survey Shows Many Couples Aren't Sure What to Do With Leftover Frozen Embryos

Donation for Research Preferred continued...

The survey presented four choices for disposing of embryos: thawing and discarding; donation to an infertile couple; indefinite freezing; and donation for research.

Two out of three patients (66%) who wanted no more children said they would be somewhat or very likely to donate the embryos for research. That was almost twice as many as said they might donate the embryos to infertile couples.

Donation for research was the most widely accepted option for disposing of frozen embryos, but Lyerly points out that many patients don't have this option or don't know that they do.

"Many centers don't make available all the options for disposition," she says. "Even in places where embryo research is not conducted, it is possible that embryos can be transferred to another center, yet this might not be discussed."

'Not an Easy Decision'

Lyerly says she hopes the survey findings will encourage more in vitro fertilization (IVF) physicians to discuss embryo disposal options with their patients before decisions need to be made.

"We aren't advocating that patients make the decision up front," she says. "But there does need to be a discussion about options and the fact that they are probably going to have to make a decision at some point."

Marti Bailey of Knoxville, Tenn., agrees.

Bailey was in charge of public relations for Knoxville's National Embryo Donation Center before giving birth to twins from donor embryos eight months ago.

Even though she is a passionate advocate of embryo donation for use by infertile couples, Bailey says she understands the conflicted feelings patients have about donating their unused frozen embryos.

Her donation was open, meaning that she keeps in touch with the Connecticut couple that provided the embryos that produced her baby daughter and son.

"This is not an easy decision," she says. "When I worked at the center I saw firsthand how little patients and even doctors and counselors knew about the options. It is important for these professionals to talk to patients about this issue before decisions have to be made."

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