National Embryo Donation Center Helps Pass Landmark Assisted Reproduction Law for Embryo Donation, Parentage Rights in TN

An effective and affordable parenthood possibility for many infertile families


Knoxville, TN -- (SBWIRE) -- 05/15/2013 -- Groundbreaking legislation on assisted reproduction and parentage rights has been signed in to law in TN with the aid of a non-profit national patient advocacy group. The National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, TN, was influential in the adoption of the bill that specifically, uniquely and clearly addresses the rights and responsibilities of all parties to embryo donation and parentage rights of children born as a result of donated embryos. The bill takes effect July 1, 2013.

The bill, sponsored in the house by Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) and in the senate by Becky Massey (R-Knoxville), was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam on April 30, 2013.

Only nine states have laws that specifically address embryo donation and parentage. The TN bill goes further by establishing the “legal embryo custodian” (LEC) as a person or entity, including an embryo transfer clinic. The LEC “holds the legal rights and responsibilities for a human embryo” and may determine criteria for relinquishment of said embryo to another person. These rights are terminated through a written contract and signed by all parties involved prior to the embryo transfer – the medical procedure of physically placing an embryo into the uterus of a female recipient patient.

“The TN bill is unique in three aspects,” states Curtis E. Harris, MS, MD, JD, and National Embryo Donation Academy (NEDA) faculty member for legal matters; “(1) the definitions of the parties is clear and simple; (2) the legal rights can be relinquished before the actual transfer (medical procedure) which is quite unique; and (3) a clinic can legally receive the embryo and then proceed as per its own protocols to perform the matching and transfer. The last point gives the clinic a greater flexibility to find recipient parents and provide embryos when asked, thereby permitting some degree of "banking" of the embryos. This is also unique.”

This bill is also different in that it does not establish “personhood” of the embryo but simplifies the process from a legal perspective for both donors and recipients.

Earlier this year, Jeffrey Keenan, MD, NEDC Medical Director, testified before the TN Senate Judiciary Committee to emphasize the need for clarification regarding who can be the legal custodian of the embryos and the parent of children born from this rapidly growing family building option. Dr. Keenan stated, “Embryo adoption is probably the single most neglected field in assisted reproduction from a legal perspective. This bill gives assurance to the couples who hold some of the over 600,000 frozen embryos in this country, and to those who will adopt them. We expect other states to follow Tennessee’s example, resulting in increased growth of this extremely effective and low-cost family building alternative.”

Additionally, the bill says that a child born from donor embryos is presumed to be the legal child of the parents who received the donated embryo transfer if each LEC and each recipient parent entered into a written and notarized contract.

The bill also addresses embryos created with the use of third party gametes (donor eggs or donor sperm); that those donors will “not be entitled to any notice of the embryo relinquishment, nor will their consent to the embryo relinquishment be required.”

“This bill provides a solid statutory foundation which embryo donors, recipients, and offspring need and deserve,” Dr. Keenan concludes.

About Embryo Donation
Since 1981, the success of fertility treatments in the United States has created a surplus of frozen human embryos. While most are retained for future children by the genetic parents, many have uncertain futures. Options for these embryos include – thaw and destroy, donate to research or donate to other infertile couples hoping to have a baby.

The low cost and high success rate of this procedure has resulted in explosive growth of this method of family building and many families who are considering traditional adoption are drawn to embryo donation because of the opportunity to experience pregnancy, childbirth and control the prenatal environment.

Jeffrey A. Keenan, MD
Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, a specialist in infertility and reproductive medicine, is a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University Of Tennessee Graduate School Of Medicine and is director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Additionally, he is the medical director at Knoxville’s Southeastern Center for Fertility and Reproductive Surgery, and the nonprofit NEDC.