Heterologous Embryo Transfer Poses Novel Legal Questions

Heterologous Embryo Transfer (“HET”) occurs when a woman, unable to conceive a child, has a genetically unrelated embryo implanted. This form of surrogacy, which has been used for over 30 years, is now being complicated by the trend of embryo adoption.

There are often surplus embryos left over when a couple uses assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization. In certain situations, the couple will allow the surplus embryos to be adopted by another couple. However, this raises novel legal questions if an issue of custody arises. There is neither legislation nor court precedent addressing what would happen if the biological parents sought custody from the second couple. As embryo adoption continues to increase, there will surely be legal battles over this.

From huffingtonpost.com, “Heterologous Embryo Transfer: A New Frontier in Parenting”

Excerpt from article:

Bringing a child into the world by traditional means is a process fraught with moral, ethical and emotional complications. Bringing a child into the world by non-traditional means, such as heterologous embryo transfer (HET) increases the complications exponentially, begging questions such as what defines a parent (genes, love, pregnancy and delivery, etc…) and who does the child belong to?

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Tags: Bioethics, pregnancy, parenting

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Three-Person IVF Possible in 2015 per UK Government

The UK is now drafting regulations for the use of “three person IVF” – a technique designed to eliminate certain mitochondrial disease.  Mitochondria produce energy within cells, and mitochondrial DNA, which comes only from the mother, determines how mitochondria function in an individual. Three-person IVF replaces “bad” mitochondrial DNA from the mother with mitochondrial DNA from a donor’s egg.

To read more, click here.

Doctors Screen for Chromosomal Abnormalities in IVF Embryos

Doctors are now able to screen for potential chromosomal abnormalities in embryos created via In vitro fertilization (IVF). The screening method uses DNA sequencing, known as next-generation sequencing (NGS), in order to identify embryos with the normal number of chromosomes. Many embryos created via IVF carry “lethal genetic abnormalities,” and fail to implant in the womb as a result. The new screening method not only lowers the cost of IVF treatments for couples by increasing pregnancy rates, but also lowers the number of miscarriages for recipients of IVF treatments. Recently a couple in the United States gave birth to the first baby conceived through IVF treatments using NGS.

NGS allows doctors to scan the human genome cheaply and rapidly; and the price for NGS is falling.  Some offer caution because of concern that NGS may lead to a generation of “designer babies.”  To read more, click here.