Should Embryos be a Commodity?

Assisted Reproductive Technology refers to all treatments where the egg or embryo is handled outside the body.

The most common treatment is IVF (in vitro fertilization). With In vitro fertilization, the egg is fertilized with the sperm in a laboratory and the resulting embryo is implanted in the uterus. IVF can be done using the intended mother’s egg or a donor’s egg and the intended father’s sperm or a donor’s sperm. It can also be done with a donated embryo. With surrogacy, a woman carries the intended mother’s embryo.

Most fertility clinics that store the genetic material of patients seeking IVF treatment state in their agreement that the sperm, egg or embryo belong to the patients and not the clinic. However, there is a clinic in Davis California that is doing things differently.

At California Conceptions, men and women donate their genetic materials, sperm and eggs. Then, the clinic takes the donated eggs and sperm of their choosing and creates a group of embryos. The clinic owns these embryos and sells them to multiple patients. Hence, multiple patients will have genetic siblings. This process of making a group of embryos for multiple patients allows the clinic to keep costs down. They offer three tries at a flat rate and offer a money back guarantee if the treatment is unsuccessful as long as you meet certain health and age requirements. At last check, the company was offering services at close to half the cost of other fertility clinics. At this time, I am not aware of any laws dealing with the buying and selling of embryos in any state. Should this clinic be permitted to create and sell embryos to patients with no relationship to the genetic materials?

The questions raised by assisted reproductive technology go beyond the buying of genetic materials and the selling of embryos. The law has not kept up with technology when it comes to almost any aspect of assisted reproduction.

Assisted reproductive technology raises a myriad of interesting legal questions:

1. What parental rights and obligations does a genetic and non-genetic parent have to a child born through Assisted Reproductive Technology?

2. What claim does a child conceived through Assisted Reproductive Technology have to a genetic and non-genetic relative’s estate?

3. Can a child born by IVF after a genetic parent’s death inherit under Ohio law or be entitled to social security benefits per his deceased parent?

4. Can a deceased person’s genetic materials be used to conceive a child?

In a series of posts, I will seek to explore these questions. If there are other questions you would like to see explored, please post in a comment and I will do my best to cover it. Also, I would love to hear your opinions on California Conceptions. Should a company be permitted to buy and sell embryos? Please share your thoughts.