Embryo donation programs and policies in North America: survey results and implications for health and mental health professionals

Fertil Steril. 2000 Feb;73(2):215-20. doi: 10.1016/s0015-0282(99)00506-3.


Objective: To use survey results from Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology to describe program policies regarding embryo donation, report protocols used for the disposition of cryopreserved embryos, and discuss clarification of guidelines governing ethical and psychosocially informed embryo donation.

Method(s): A 66-item questionnaire was sent to the 312 Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology programs, generating 108 responses.

Result(s): Seventy-eight (72%) of 108 programs offer embryo donation. Forty (37%) have actually performed donation, with 246 cycles completed and 53 "take-home babies." Disposition agreements for donors address divorce (92%) and death (90%). Only 28% require that potential donors undergo psychologic evaluation. Ninety-five percent of programs do not compensate donors. Seventy-one percent require a complete medical and psychologic history and 10% require genetic karyotyping. Three percent limit the number of donations. Eligible recipients include married couples (100%), unmarried couples (61%), lesbian couples (55%), and single women (59%). Sixty-four percent of programs require psychologic screening. Storage limits range from 2-10 years. Forty-nine percent of programs have unclaimed embryos in storage.

Conclusion(s): Embryo donation is more often contemplated than performed. Variability in program procedures and policies suggests that guidelines need to be clarified. The complexity of the psychosocial and ethical issues underscores the importance of a routine, comprehensive psychologic assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro / economics
  • Fertilization in Vitro / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Personnel
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services*
  • North America
  • Oocyte Donation* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Oocyte Donation* / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tissue Donors / psychology