The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (“ASRM”) recently issued an Ethics Committee opinion regarding the appropriate terminology for the donation of embryos. The opinion is consistent with the modern sentiment that “embryo donation” is the proper term, rather than “embryo adoption”. The Ethics Committee asserts that using the term “embryo adoption” is inaccurate and misleading, as it “reinforces a conceptualization of the embryo as a fully entitled legal being and may lead to a series of legal proceedings associated with the adoption of born children.”Although the legal status of embryos varies by state, the ASRM affords embryos a “special significance compared with gametes because of their potential to become persons,” but does not consider embryos persons. The committee contrasts embryos with children in an adoption, which relates to the establishment of parentage in “existing children.”
The Committee reasons that conferring embryos the same status as an “existing child” is harmful and can impose unnecessary burdens on embryo recipients. For example, adoption elements such as home studies and judicial proceedings are “appropriately absent” from embryo donation, which is first and foremost a medical process. Additionally, for the last fifteen years, the Committee has taken the position that embryo donation more closely resembles human reproduction than it does adoption. The Committee perceives embryo donation as a “fundamentally medical procedure intended to result in a pregnancy,” thus warranting its distinction from adoption.
Although embryo donation is a medical procedure, it involves legal elements as well. For example, an embryo donation agreement is highly recommended and encouraged. Therefore, it’s imperative that Intended Parents consult with an experienced reproductive law attorney before embarking on this journey.