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February 2016

Legal Battles Over Embryos After In Vitro Fertilization: Is There a Way to Avoid Them?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 2The O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC
  • 3Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(2):182-184. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.5611

The hypothetical legal case presented by Fournier1 highlights critical issues surrounding embryo disposition in the field of oncofertility. As presented, the case involves an unmarried couple who cryopreserved embryos prior to the woman starting chemotherapy for breast cancer. The couple separated soon after the embryos were created, and the previous partner filed a lawsuit to prevent the woman from using the embryos to conceive. Disputes over embryo disposition continue to plague the field of reproductive medicine, and in an era where embryo cryopreservation has become routine, updated guidance on how to avoid these situations would be welcome. The case put forth by Fournier does not address what steps, counseling, agreements, and/or documents the former couple were offered or undertook. We believe there can be different medical and legal sensitivities involved and precautions taken but also common, fundamental principles that need to be adhered to for those who are using reproductive technologies for fertility preservation with plans to conceive sometime in the future, as well as for couples who cryopreserve embryos as part of the process of actively trying to conceive.