With the advent of IVF, what to do with excess (or leftover) embryos became a surprising problem for infertile couples. Previously, they had no family; now, they have a family of embryos! Embryos that may be donated, without the need for adoption.

After creating a family with a few of the embryos, many of those couples (or single parents) choose to donate the excess embryos to other individuals for conception. This is a real alternative to destruction and donation to scientific research.

The legalities of donating embryos to another infertile person(s) is relatively simple: it involves a contract between the donating and recipient parties. The parties’ identities may be guarded by the respective attorneys. It is viewed as any other donation of genetic material. However, some intermediaries call this process “embryo adoption.” That is a misnomer – no adoption is necessary. As the ASRM stated this month, the correct term is, in fact, “embryo donation”. “Home visits, judicial review and other adoption procedures are not necessary and not appropriate for a patient whose case entails what is most accurately characterized medically as a tissue donation,” stated in December issue of the journal Fertility & Sterility.

Parties with excess embryos should not be dissuaded from giving their unwanted embryos to another infertile person and couples should not be discouraged from receiving them because of inaccurate beliefs that they would have to undergo an adoption.