I’ve written about the extra embryo problem in the past. Basically when people engage in IVF they generally end up with more embryos than the need for their own use. What to do with extras?
As this story makes clear, there are a few options; the embryos can be destroyed, they can be used for research, or they can be used for ART by someone else. This can be a difficult choice. For some people the destruction of embryos, whether for its own sake or for research purposes, is unacceptable. This makes the last option most acceptable, but it brings with it its own questions. Who should get the embryos? Who should decide who gets the embryos? What process should be used?
Some people talk about embryo adoption and while this usually reflects their beliefs about the status of the embryos, it is legally incorrect. No jurisdiction (at least as far as I know) has anything like adoption proceedings for embryos. Instead, embryos (perhaps like sperm) are the property of the people who created them (or more accurately, who caused them to be created). Those people can direct them as they wish.
Which brings us to Deb and Kevin McCrea. They had 18 extra embryos–an unusually large number. They could have donated them to a fertility clinic and let the clinic distribute them, but they decided not to go that route. Instead, they posted them on Craig’s List.
Now they were not selling them (and I think that this is quite important.) But it also isn’t clear that they were giving them to just anyone who asked for them. (I’d be pretty surprised if they were, given the replies I’ve seen to Craig’s List postings.) And they were giving them away with conditions–conditions akin to those you might find in open adoptions.
It’s not hard for me to understand why the McCreas might want to have this kind fo control. I’m assuming that the embryos were created with the McCrea’s own gametes. (The story I’m looking at doesn’t discuss this question.) If the embryos are used for ART and develop into children, then those children will be full genetic siblings of the McCrea’s children. (This is true even if the gametes weren’t the McCrae’s.) And the McCreas themselves will be the biological parents of the children. So the McCreas would like to retain contact with the families created with these embryos.
But while I understand it, there is something a little strange about it. It’s not adoption and yet in a way, the McCreas are acting like their own adoption agency. They’re screening people (I assume) but they’re using whatever standards they choose. And the agreements they are making–about contact and exchange of pictures–aren’t enforceable contracts. (At least, I don’t think they can be.)
I do not mean to cast doubt on the motives of the McCreas or anything like that. It’s just that ART takes you to such strange places sometimes. This doesn’t look anything like adoption and it doesn’t look like gamete donation either. It’s something all its own, I guess. Something to think about.