Carmen Olalde really wanted children. She went through years of infertility treatment and IVF, then a difficult pregnancy, to have her twins. And as her twins turned four, she realized that two kids were enough."Adoption" is the word the article uses, which I consider a misnomer when it comes to embryo donation. "Open donation" would be more accurate here. And the article needs to straighten out another misperception it creates -- by talking about the fact that openness in embryo donation is legally murky, they create the impression that there's no legal murkiness in open adoption agreements. Indeed, in most states such agreements are still not legally enforceable.
But she still had four frozen embryos from her last IVF cycle. And so she made a decision that put her at the frontier of reproductive ethics. She donated the embryos to a Virginia couple also suffering from infertility, whom she met via a website ad – on the condition that the donation be "open," and they send regular photos of any resulting child and hopefully keep in touch by e-mail and phone.
“My motherly part of me thinks that I think that I would at least want to know what happened to them, that it would hit me once in a while that I have these genetic children out there. But at least I will know that [the couple] Karolina and Oscar have them and that they’re happy, they’re OK,” says Olalde.
Meet the modern "open adoption" family -- at least two hopeful humans and one embryo, brought together by science, trust, complicated legalities and a goodly bit of luck.
Many post-birth adoptions these days are “open,” in which the birth and adoptive families know each other’s name and perhaps have some degree of contact. Pre-birth arrangements may be following suit, though the law hasn't yet caught up.
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The donation arrangements are murky legally, as well as emotionally. Adoption laws only cover children already born, so families involved in embryo donation usually sign forms and contracts dictating "ownership" of the embryos, often hiring their own lawyers for private agreements. Some follow up with a legal adoption after a child is born to further secure their rights.
Margaret Swain, an attorney whose practice focuses on adoption and reproductive technology, says children born from donation will likely appreciate an open arrangement, even though parents might initially feel uncomfortable.
“Following the lessons learned from adoption, and what we are hearing from children born through gamete donation, some degree of openness is probably a good idea. Children born of gamete donation -- donation of either egg or sperm -- usually like to know more about the person who donated, or to meet that person,” she says.
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