Changing attitudes to embryo donation over a five year period in Australia

C. McMahon, D. M. Saunders

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract


Introduction: In the context of extensive public and political debate over the use
of human embryos for stem cell research, this study explored attitudes to stored
frozen embryos, concerns and intentions regarding embryo donation and whether
these attitudes had changed between 2001 and 2005 in Sydney, Australia.
Materials and Methods: Surveys were mailed in 2001 and again in 2005 to all
clients of one branch of a private IVF clinic in Sydney, Australia. Only clients
who had frozen embryos stored for longer than three years were targeted. The
survey on both occasions contained identical questions addressing demographic
information (including age, education, ethnic background, commitment
to religious practice), infertility treatment history (including type of
infertility, number of treatment cycles, whether couples had completed their
families), attitudes and concerns about stored embryos and intentions regarding
embryo donation. In 2005 respondents were also invited to comment on
whether conditional donation whereby donors could specify recipient characteristics
would influence their willingness to donate to other infertile couples.
Answers to open-ended questions were analysed qualitatively to identify
major themes regarding barriers to donation.
Results: Despite sending out a reminder survey to all clients, the response ratewas
just 30% on both occasions. There were 55 respondents with embryos stored
longer than three years in 2001 and 166 in 2005. The cohorts did not differ on
demographic variables, infertility diagnosis, whether they had completed their
families and time embryos had been stored (2001: Mean¼64 months, SD¼25
months; 2005: Mean¼56 months, SD¼28 months), but the earlier cohort had
experienced more treatment attempts (2001: Mean¼3.28 (SD¼ 1.01); 2005:
Mean¼2.04, SD¼. 60, P¼. 000). The two cohorts were equally likely to think
about their embryos as potential children (.75% in both), but the 2005 cohort
reported significantly less worry about their embryos, P¼. 000. With respect to
donation for medical research, 19% indicated that they would probably do so in
2005, compared with just 4% in 2002, P¼. 004. Twelve percent of the 2005
cohort indicated discarding their embryos was the most probable outcome, compared
with 27% in 2001, P¼. 013. There was no change, however, in intention to
donate to other infertile couples with less than 5 % in both cohorts indicating this
as a probable outcome. Interestingly while 43% felt that embryo donors should be
able to specify characteristics of recipient couples, only 14% said they would be
much more likely to donate under these conditions.
Conclusions: This study shows attitudes to embryo donation for research are
changing in Australia, with overall less worry about the decision, and an
increased openness to donation for medical research. Further, couples in the
more recent cohort were less inclined to have their embryos discarded. There
was no change, however, in inclination to donate to other infertile couples
with very low numbers indicating this was probable on both occasions. Findings
are discussed in the context of qualitative comments made by respondents
about the various embryo options, and have implications for counseling and
community debate.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberO-164
Pages (from-to)i66-i66
Number of pages1
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue numberSupplement 1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007
Event23rd Annual Meeting of the European-Society-of-Human-Reproduction-and-Embryology - Lyon, France
Duration: 1 Jul 20074 Jul 2007

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