We are exploring how people make decisions about the embryos they have created through IVF. It is common practice in Australia to create a number of embryos through a ‘full’ IVF cycle and then to store any extra embryos so that they can be transferred later if needed.

At present there are around 120,000 frozen embryos in storage throughout Australia. Prospective parents, fertility clinics and governments are all involved in making decisions about how and when these embryos can be used.

These decisions include:

  • how long to store embryos;
  • whether to donate unused embryos to other infertile people so that they can try to have children;
  • whether to donate unused embryos for research;
  • what to do with stored embryos if a couple separates;
  • whether embryos can be used by one partner if the other partner dies; and whether to undergo a farewell process for embryos that are being discarded.

For prospective parents, some of these decisions are made at the outset of IVF during the counselling and consent process, while other decisions may have to be made, or re-visited, months and even years later. As personal circumstances change, so may views about the embryos and decisions about their use. These decisions are difficult ones to make, and there are presently very few avenues available to resolve disagreements if they arise.

We are asking people about their experiences in making decisions about embryos and exploring the range of choices they had, or would like to have. Based on this information we will make recommendations for legal change at the end of the project.

If you have undertaken IVF in Australia and created embryos that were frozen, now or at any time in the past, you could help by completing a survey or agreeing to be interviewed as part of this project – please complete our online survey, arrange an interview or contact us. All aspects of the study are strictly confidential.

This research is funded by the Australian Research Council (Discovery Grant DP 0986213, ‘Enhancing Reproductive Opportunity in Australia: Reconsidering Consent, Altruism and the Legal Status of Embryos in ART Processes’) and has been granted ethics approval by UTS (UTS HREC REF No 2009-262A).