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

C. McMahon, D. M. Saunders

    Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review


    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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