Compassionate Transfer/Disposal Ceremony for Embryo Disposal

Couples with unused frozen embryos must decide what to do with these embryos once they finish fertility treatment.  For some, donating to another family or research or simply thawing and disgarding are not comfortable options.  Those couples often seek some form of closure to their years struggling to have a family and a way to honor these embryos in the process.  Our guests to talk about compassionate transfers and other ways patients have found closure are Dr. Kristen Wright chief reproductive endocrinologist at the Reproductive Science Center of New England’s New Hampshire fertility clinics and former Assistant Professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility; and Patricia Sachs, clinical social worker and infertility counselor at Shady Grove Fertility.

Hit the Highlights
  • Frozen embryos are created with virtually every IVF cycle preformed in the US.  Why is it considered the preferred option to have enough embryos to freeze?
  • What percentage of the cycles nationally are fresh cycles and what % are frozen cycles?
  • How many embryos are frozen in the US?
  • Options available for disposing of these embryos:  (1) store for future pregnancy attempts; (2) thaw and dispose of embryos; (3) donate to another couple trying to have a baby; (4) keep the embryos “frozen forever” (a term articulated by participants in the prior interviews); and (5) donate the embryos to research. Under the thaw and dispose option some patients have said that they would prefer some variation on this theme such at what is called a compassionate transfer or some type of disposal ceremony
  • What does the standard consent used by infertility clinics say about disposition. What options are presented to patients before embryos are frozen?
  • Why are the surplus of frozen embryos a problem for the infertility clinics?
  • Why are people indecisive about what to do with unused frozen embryos?
  • What exactly is meant by thaw and discard as it is traditionally practiced.  Exactly how do they thaw and discard?
  • What is a compassionate transfer as a method of embryo disposition?
  • Can the embryos be transferred to the uterus rather than the vagina?
  • What type of ceremonies do people have for embryo disposition?
  • Is it possible to have the ceremony in the embryology lab?
  • Why are people seeking other disposal  options?
  • What does getting rid of the unused left over embryos mean to patients?
  • A great deal of diversity exists in our country about the moral or personhood status of embryos. Does views on this subject seem to correlate to what option people choose on how to dispose of their embryos?
  • Examples of disposal ceremonies .
  • Can the patient receive the vial/straw of embryos and take them home to bury them or dispose of them in some other way?
  • How common are these alternative embryo disposal practices?
  • When talking with doctors, I find some that are adamantly against these alternative disposal methods to the point where some have told me that they would refuse to perform them.  I know you can’t speak for all doctors or REs, but I’m sure you’ve heard of this opposition as well. Why might a doctor feel strongly against these methods.
  • Would a compassionate transfer affect an infertility clinics success rate for frozen embryo cycle?
  • How much does a compassionate transfer cost and is it covered by insurance?
  • Is it practical or advisable to produce fewer embryos?