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Embryo donation an option under proposed guideline

6 May 2004

Media Release

Embryo donation an option under proposed guidelines

Couples who have IVF embryos that are surplus to their treatment needs may soon be given the option of donating them to other infertile couples.

This new option is outlined in the Guidelines for the Practice of Embryo Donation for Reproductive Purposes consultation document, released this week by the National Ethics Committee on Assisted Human Reproduction (NECAHR). The guidelines, together with questions and answers, are available on NECAHR?s website (http://www.newhealth.govt.nz/necahr.htm).

NECAHR Chair, Professor Sylvia Rumball, says at the moment couples who have embryos left over after their treatment can either have them kept in storage (normally for up to 10 years), or have them destroyed. Donating surplus embryos to another infertile couple will present them with another option.

Embryo donation for reproductive purposes is an innovative treatment in New Zealand. This means NECAHR approval is required on a case-by-case basis. The development of the guidelines has been prompted by an application from a fertility clinic to offer this service to infertile couples. The clinic says it has a number of donor and recipient couples already interested.

"NECAHR hasn't given approval to an individual application as yet. The Committee sought approval from the Minister of Health to develop these guidelines for public consultation," says Professor Rumball.

"The guidelines are being distributed widely, in order to encourage public debate, and the feedback we obtain will be used to revise them, before they're submitted to the Minister of Health for final approval."

The consultation document sets out the ethical and cultural issues in regard to embryo donation for reproductive purposes, together with a description of the international situation. Embryo donation raises a number of ethical considerations, including the welfare of any child who might be subsequently born.

Another important consideration is free and informed consent on the part of the embryo donor. "It is essential to guard against pressure being placed on people to donate their embryos, and against people later regretting having donated their embryos."

Compensation for gamete or embryo donation is considered to be unethical in New Zealand, and this is supported in the Supplementary Order Paper to the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill currently before the Health Select Committee. The proposed guidelines reflect this position.

ENDS

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