Currently, there is little evidence about conditional relinquishment of frozen embryos to others for family-building. This paper begins to address this gap by reporting findings from a study that investigated the experiences of couples who chose to relinquish their embryos conditionally through an embryo ‘adoption’ programme.METHODS
An exploratory qualitative study was conducted between September 2008 and December 2009. Participants were recruited from a Christian embryo ‘adoption’ programme in the USA. Forty-three people (18 couples and 7 wives) participated in in-depth email interviews.RESULTS
The data show that the following factors contributed to the participants choosing an embryo ‘adoption’ programme: how they conceptualized their embryos; dislike of alternative disposition options available; conceptions of their parental responsibility towards their embryo and a desire to have an ‘open’ relinquishment with (varying) degrees of information-sharing and contact arrangements between themselves and recipient couples.CONCLUSIONS
This study identifies a diversity of views on embryo relinquishment and some couples’ wishes for elements of conditional relinquishment that are offered by embryo ‘adoption’ programmes. A range of disposition options should be available to enhance choice for those with unused embryos so that they can relinquish in ways that are both morally and practically acceptable to them. The current polarized debate concerning the language of embryo ‘adoption’ detracts attention from the practical considerations of formulating ‘best practice’ in this area. These considerations are better addressed by the use of less politically charged terminology such as ‘conditional relinquishment’.