Embryo donation and understanding of kinship: The impact of law and policy

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Human Reproduction, 2017, 32 (1), pp. 133 - 138
Issue Date:
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© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. STUDY QUESTION What is the impact of law and policy upon the experience of embryo donation for reproductive use? SUMMARY ANSWER Access to, and experience of, embryo donation are influenced by a number of external factors including laws that impose embryo storage limits, those that frame counselling and approval requirements and allow for, or mandate, donor identity disclosure. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY To date only three qualitative studies in Australia and New Zealand have been completed on the experience of embryo donation for reproductive purposes, each with a small cohort of interviewees and divergent findings. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION Embryo donors, recipients, and would-be donors were interviewed between July 2010 and July 2012, with three additional interviews between September 2015 and September 2016, on their experiences of embryo donation. The sampling protocol had the advantage of addressing donation practices across multiple clinical sites under distinct legal frameworks. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTINGS, METHODS Participants were recruited from five Australian jurisdictions and across 11 clinical sites. Twenty-six participants were interviewed, comprising: 11 people who had donated embryos for the reproductive use of others (nine individuals and one couple), six recipients of donated embryos (four individuals and one couple) and nine individuals who had attempted to donate, or had a strong desire to donate, but had been prevented from doing so. In total, participants reported on 15 completed donation experiences; of which nine had resulted in offspring to the knowledge of the donor. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE Donors positively desired donation and did not find the decision difficult. Neither donors nor recipients saw the donation process as akin to adoption. The process and practice of donation varied considerably across different jurisdictions and clinical sites. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION Because the pool of donors and recipients is small, caution must be exercised over drawing general conclusions. Saturation was not reached on themes of counselling models and future contact. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS The differences between our findings and those of a previous study are attributable to varied legal and counselling regimes. Therefore, law and policy governing embryo storage limits, counselling protocols and identity disclosure shape the donation experience and how it is described.
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