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Victoria considers New Zealand approach to embryo donation

Antony Blackburn-Starza

Progress Educational Trust

29 August 2007

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[BioNews, London]
The Australian state of Victoria is considering plans to allow couples who are donating embryos to choose the recipient parents. As part of the donation process, couples would be required to meet with prospective parents, making embryo donation in the state more like adoption.

Victoria's Infertility Treatment Authority (ITA) is seeking to fill a vacuum in legislation governing embryo donation, where there are no policy guidelines regulating the process. Louise Johnson, chief executive of the ITA, said that, 'the infertility treatment clinics have raised the issue of embryo donation with the ITA, and the ITA - in considering any changes to its guidelines - would need to think first about the welfare and interests of children to be born'.

The ITA is considering advice from experts in New Zealand where the requirement that couples must meet during the process of embryo donation has been implemented as a world first. Briefing the ITA, Professor Ken Daniels, of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, said that embryo donation is a 'massive decision' and that 'it's very important, especially in terms of the Victorian legislation and our legislation here in New Zealand, that offspring have the opportunity to know about their genetic origins'. 'To know about their genetic origins means that they know who the donating couple were and the siblings that are in that family', he said.

If the plans are adopted, the couples wishing to donate will first receive anonymised information about the recipient couple, who in turn will also receive profiles on the donating couple. Should they then wish to proceed with the donation, meetings facilitated by counsellors between the parties would be set up. 'The whole basis of is this is trying to get the professionals out of a brokering role and letting the people make their own decisions. It's empowering the people', said Professor Daniels.

Embryos used during fertility treatment can be stored either for the donor's future use, donated for research, or donated for other couples to use in fertility treatment. Embryo donation is often the least popular option, with only a handful of treatments in Victoria occurring each year.

Some clinics have expressed concern over the suggestions to bring together the donating and recipient couples. Donna Howlett, managing director of Monash IVF clinic, said that the proposals would place 'another barrier in front of these couples who are trying to have a family', further adding to the emotional turmoil of unsuccessful IVF.

Louise Johnson recognised embryo donation is a 'sensitive area' and it is because of this guidelines are required, she said, adding that the New Zealand approach represents an 'enlightened' and 'sensitive' policy. The ITA is planning to launch a consultation into the matter before a decision is made.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 29 August 2007   Date Updated: 29 August 2007
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