Parent Identity and ???Virtual??? Children: Why Patients Discard Rather Than Donate Unused Embryos
Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey
BACKGROUND: Many patients prefer to donate unused embryos when surveyed. However, it is a source of frustration and curiosity that clinical audits of embryo outcomes show the majority changed their minds. In many clinics, the number of recipients continues to outweigh the number of donors. To plan effective counselling practices, it is important to understand the dynamics of decision-making for patients when determining outcomes for unused embryos. METHODS: Twelve couples and nine women (n 5
... who had discarded unused embryos were interviewed using a narrative structure and various interview techniques. Interview transcripts underwent qualitative analysis through which data were grouped thematically according to similarities. Differences were also examined. RESULTS: Participants described their initial choice to donate embryos as an idealistic plan rather than a purposeful decision. Their change of mind was due to two factors: (i) a change in their standpoint from a childless couple to parents; and (ii) a change in the symbolism of the embryo from representing a chance to become pregnant to representing a 'virtual' child in cryo-storage. The meaning of embryo donation was likened to child relinquishment. CONCLUSION: Counselling and social policy need to take account of the symbolism of the embryo and reform current practices.