Embryo Adoption and Embryo Donation

What is embryo adoption?

Many couples addressing fertility issues attempt to conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and related techniques.  During IVF treatments, couples harvest multiple eggs and generally produce more than one embryo.  Any embryos not used in the first procedure are frozen or cryo-preserved for future attempts.  Embryos are not created specifically for adoption.  They were created for the donor family.  If the couple conceives and delivers a child and later decides that their family is complete, they may not use all of the stored embryos.  The couple then has the difficult decision of what to do with the unused embryos.  Some couples may decide to have the remaining unused embryos donated or placed for adoption.  This can be done either through private medical providers or agencies established to assist with embryo adoption.

Embryo adoption is a procedure in which couples that have frozen embryos agree to donate them to another couple or individual.  The recipients of the frozen embryo wish to conceive and deliver the child and become that child’s legal parents.  The adopting family may either be known to the donors or may maintain anonymity.  The issue of “openness” is similar to that in a traditional adoption process and will be determined by the desires of the donating parents and the adoptive family.

What is the procedure?

With embryo adoption, the adopting mother must be able to carry a child full-term.  This is different from a surrogacy arrangement, in which an agreement is made for embryos to be transferred into a woman and she then carries the baby for the benefit of the intended parents.  With embryo adoption, the adoptive mother carries the child or children.  The donating couple transfers or relinquishes parental rights to any children born from the embryos before the embryos are implanted into the adoptive mother.   Once responsibility for the embryos has been legally transferred to the adoptive family, all responsibilities for the embryos and any resulting children are legally the adoptive families.

With some programs, a family must complete an embryo home study before they can be matched with a donating couple.  This type of home study is similar to that completed for a domestic adoption and addresses some additional issues related to the procedure used to conceive.

What does Georgia law provide?

Georgia was one of the first states in the country to enact an embryo adoption statute.  With adoption of a frozen embryo, the intended mother has the ability of carrying the pregnancy herself and delivering the baby.  Georgia law provides that a “legal embryo custodian may relinquish all rights and responsibilities for an embryo to a recipient intended parent prior to embryo transfer.” The parties must sign a written contract that complies with the applicable law.  Ronnie Fishbein can assist in referring clients to reputable resources for embryo adoption and can ensure that any agreement signed by the parties complies with the Georgia Embryo Transfers statute.  Before the birth of a child or following the birth of a child, Ronnie Fishbein can assist in petitioning the court for an expedited order of adoption or parentage.

Because of the complexity of the legal issues involved, families considering this option should consult with an attorney with experience in this area as well as with an ethical medical provider and/or donation center.  Ronnie Fishbein can assist clients by explaining the process, drafting the legal contract to guarantee that all parental/custodial rights of the custodian of the embryo are properly terminated and obtaining the final adoption or parentage order.