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Spanish embryo adoption programme – is it a good idea?

A fertility clinic in Spain is in the headlines for running an embryo adoption scheme that wouldn’t be allowed here in the UK.

Posted: 22 July 2010
by Cassandra Kempster-Roberts

A Spanish clinic is running an ‘embryo adoption programme’. The programme sees embryos donated to other women if the couple who created them doesn’t know what they wish to do with their embryos, or if they don’t respond to correspondence from the clinic. Spanish anonymity rules also mean any children born from the adopted embryos can’t trace their biological parents, or be traced themselves.

The scheme has been running since 2004 at the clinic, called the Institut Marques on Barcelona’s outskirts. The clinic has treated 317 British couples since the adoption programme started, with 26 agreeing to the adoption, and 114 undecided couples having their embryos adopted.

A spokesperson for the clinic said that as a result of the adoption programme, over 460 babies have been born worldwide.

This kind of programme would be illegal in the UK, reports the Telegraph. This is because patients must provide explicit consent for their embryos to be adopted, used in research or destroyed. Another difference in Britain is that once a person is 18, they can trace their biological parents and siblings.

Embryo donation is pretty rare in the UK. Most couples decide to store their embryos for their own needs rather than donate them to other couples. To put it in perspective, in Britain more than 1,500 fertility treatments were undertaken with donated eggs in 2007, but only 221 treatments involved donated embryos.

If you do travel abroad for fertility treatment, you need to make sure you’re aware of the rules and regulations in that country.

“Although many patients do have a good experience of treatment abroad, we have always maintained that before making a decision patients need to make themselves aware of the laws in that country which may be very different from the regulated system here in the UK,” said Susan Seenan, from patients’ group Infertility Network.

"In this particular case perhaps patients may need to ensure that the clinic in question has in writing their express wishes as to what should happen to any spare embryos after they finish treatment.”

What do you think about the embryo adoption at Institut Marques? Let us know how you feel – or what you’ve decide to do – below…


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infertility, embryo donation, fertility, egg donation, embryo, IVF, Spain, pregnancy, Institut Marques, biological parents, Infertility Network
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