differences of embryo adoption embryo donation

Embryo Donation and Embryo Adoption – How Are They Different?

By on September 28, 2009

The subjects of embryo adoption and embryo donation have appeared on my radar or the past couple of weeks. It’s given me pause for thought.

And my thoughts have honestly been troubled.

The first time I heard the term embryo adoption and embryo donation I thought the two terms were interchangeable, almost the same. And then I began to read, and research — then I began to go to embryo adoption sites and I learned in a heck of a hurry there is a huge difference.

We frequently hear organizations using the term ”embryo adoption” and then go on to treat the donation as a traditional adoption. Lots of these organizations require home studies, lengthy application processes, and costly up-front fees which leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Legally the terminology “adoption” means that a child has already been born and is being placed into a waiting family. In regards to embryo donation — a child will be born into a waiting family carried either by the recipient mother or a gestational carrier, with the recipient couple being named on a birth certificate as parents.

Now, in most states embryo donation is handled as a transfer of private party, clinics view this as a donation of cells or tissue.

In fact a poll conducted by Harris Interactive states that the general public prefers the term “donation” by a margin of 2:1 over “adoption” because that’s what it is. PVED like Miracles Waiting feels that embryo donation more accurately describes the process of giving and receiving embryos, and chooses to use this terminology.

The differences between embryo donation and embryo adoption:

· When embryos are donated the recipient(s) don’t have a home study prepared. Some embryo adoption agencies want you to believe that it’s a cold, impersonal process which isn’t true at all. While in some cases there is no contact between families in many cases the donating party and the recipient party do indeed forge a relationship and if they are fortunate to have a child out of that donation more often than not the families agree to share this information with their children. All of these agreements are worked out through the help of an attorney who creates a contract that both parties sign.

· There is no money exchanged between parties. Zero. All monies are paid to the fertility clinic that is performing the embryo transfer, to a psychologist who meets with both couples, and the attorney who is preparing the contract. The donating couple in most cases has their attorney fees paid by the recipient couple and the psychologist who meets with both parties to talk about feelings, agreements, or questions they both might have about embryo donation and what it means for their family.

· Embryo donation happens in several ways. A couple that has finished creating or growing their family can donate their embryos to their fertility clinic. Their fertility clinic then finds a recipient couple to receive those embryos. The donating party doesn’t always know who the recipients are and this is considered anonymous donation. The donating couple can also use services like Miracles Waiting that don’t actually match but provide the means and ability to find recipients the meet their criteria. PVED also helps with the matching process within their forum and connects both donating and recipient parties. A donating couple can also befriend recipients they meet in their life, begin a conversation, and decide to donate embryos to people they already know which is referred to a directed donation.

· Embryo adoption requires a home study that is conducted by an agency and their social workers. This includes completing a lengthy application, providing financial records to prove you have enough money to care for your child, back ground checks, education, medical screening, and psych screening.

· Embryo adoption allows you in most cases to select the family you wish to receive your embryos. You also have the ability to have a directed adoption or in some cases you can adopt out your embryos anonymously.
My problem with embryo adoption agencies is again “from a legal perspective, the terminology “adoption” implies that a child has already been born and is being placed into a family. In the case of embryo donation, the child will be born into the family, with the recipient couple being named on the birth certificate as parents.”
(source: http://www.miracleswaiting.org/understanding.html#q1)

As Amy Dema a New York State licensed attorney, and a long-term family and children’s advocate so aptly put it:

“My position is that “embryo adoption” and all aspects of that model are inappropriate legally, psychosocially and in other ways. I disagree with imposing any process or procedure that is adoption based on this alternative family building option. When I speak on Embryo Donation, I start with disconnecting from the “adoption” approach. Folks need to know that the Christian -based organizations that push “embryo adoption” (and home studies) have an agenda greater than offering alternative family building and the more awareness and education that is offered regarding “embryo donation” the less, I hope, we will hear about these inappropriate practices.”

And I am totally on the same page as Ms. Demma — How can you possibly adopt something that’s not even there yet?

  1. Reply


    September 29, 2009

    I appreciated your attempt to explain the differences between embryo donation and adoption. The reason your explanation falls short though is your personal position regarding when life begins.

    Your life began as an embryo, as did mine and every other human who has ever lived. Embryo adoption principles are practiced because those who follow them believe life begins as conception. You are adopting something ‘that is already there’. As far as the home study requirement is concerned it is basically a background check on the family receiving/adopting the donated embryos. Most donors hesitate to donate to another couple because they want to know if the family receiving their donated ‘children’ is able to sufficiently care for them.

    Many clinics with donation programs do not provide the psychological counseling you imply they all provide. They don’t keep track of who received which embryos. Adoption agencies do keep track, a great benefit for potential future emergencies.

    The fact is that people who oppose the term embryo adoption don’t want to accept the standard medical science fact taught in our universities – human life begins when the egg is united with a sperm.

  2. Reply

    PVED Mom

    September 29, 2009

    @Hatgirlcreek — I don’t think I stated when I thought life began. And I believe my definitions are correct.

    What adoption agency do you work for?

  3. Reply


    September 30, 2009

    Actually I’m an independent thinker 🙂 I realize you did not state your position explicitly, but it is implicitly included in your use of language. The donation/adoption question really boils down to whether or not you think the embryo is a baby or a thing. I happen to think it is a baby. Again, thanks for posting about it.

  4. Reply

    PVED Mom

    September 30, 2009

    @Hatgirlcreek – Again, thanks for writing. Being the “idependent thinker” that you are then you will see if you re-read my post that I explained the “differences” between embryo donation and embryo adoption. Our organization uses the language of embryo donation — as donating an embryo is akin to giving a gift. A precious gift at that. Regardless, there are differences between egg donation and embryo adoption. And as an organization I was stating those differences from our organizations stand point.

    We are not an anti adoption organization, nor do we take any stances about that. We are not a religious organization, nor are we affilitated with any clinic, egg donation agency, adoption agency, pharmacy, or legal firm. If you take the time to read about who we are and what we do you will see that we indeed value life to the fullest, from conception to birth.

  5. Reply


    October 2, 2009

    It also depents whether you use an adoption agency or a place like http://www.miracleswaiting.org where donor & recipient couples match each other. We adopted our 6precious embryos privately and there was no home study etc involved. Both couples in our situation believe life starts at concpetion so we had it stated that way in our adoption contract. Thanks for bringing light to this miraculous way of building a family.

  6. Reply


    May 23, 2010

    I believe there’s a place for both Embryo Adoption and Embryo Donation in our society. I have to agree that the term you prefer to use comes down to how you view an embryo overall. Is it a child, life, potential for life, a cluster or cells, etc.? If you believe it’s a living being, then donating it seems like an insignificant way to treat something that you treasure no differently than any other person you love. You can donate your clothes, an organ or money, but donating a child or even the potential for a child leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I think more thought should be put into the “potential” children that will result from these donations. I guess if I were one of those children, I would have rather been lovingly “placed” for adoption by my Genetic Family than anonymously “donated.” I personally feel embryos deserve more respect and that this very topic needs to be thought through more. There are more factors and people to consider, than just the Donating Family. Heck, even the Receiving Family changes the language to “Adoption”, once a child is born, because they know there will be a stigma attached to having been donated. The reality is the word “donation” is just not appropriate when referring to even the earliest form of human life. No person wants to be known as “donated.” Embryo Adoption can exist without lengthy home studies, application processes, and fees. I just wish the word “Donation” would go away.



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