People who use in vitro fertilization usually have left over embryos. The parents need to decide what to do with them: store, dispose or donate for research. A new approach for making this decision has been developed by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The parents are encouraged to make the decision in the privacy of their homes rather than in the doctor’s office where there could be real or perceived pressure to make a specific type of decision.
“There is concern that conflicts of interest and influence by researchers and clinicians may play a role in donor choice,” said bioethicist and senior author of the research, Christopher Scott, director of Stanford’s Program on Stem Cells in Society. “The Stanford biobank process allows people time to make the primary decision to donate on their own, when it’s right for them. It also allowed us to ask whether donors have preferences as to the type of research they will allow on their embryos.”
Right now there are hundreds of thousands of eggs in storage at a monthly fee. Stanford is currently using a two part process for discussing research donor information. Printed material is included in the monthly storage bill. Either an informed consent packet or a general information pamphlet is included depending on the expressed wishes of the potential donor.
“At that point,” Scott explained, “the recipients are free to throw the information away or put it on the coffee table to consider and talk about.” Without pressure and with a free conscience, able to make a decision based on the family’s values.
The study, to be published in Cell Stem Cell, describes the process and gives the results of a survey showing what types of research parents selected. More research will be gleaned as people respond to the process.
Source: Stanford University Medical Center, EurekAlert