Monday, February 5, 2007


What terms can be included in an open embryo donation contract? Anything the donor(s) and recipient(s) both agree will work for their families. In our case, my wife and I made sure we worked out our concerns with the recipients before hand. By writing emails back and forth and discussing things on the phone we had all arrived at a general framework for the agreement before the actual contract was written.

After sharing our concerns and hopes we then stepped back and trusted our recipients to keep to the spirit of what we had discussed. Only the most important issues made it into the actual draft contract.

The legally binding contract was kept flexible and as minimal as possible. The only things we asked the recipients to commit to were issues that I felt would put me into "karmic debt" if something went wrong.

By "karmic debt" I mean that I did not want to be responsible for causing pain. Thus, I would not help anyone create a child who was needlessly disabled, deceived or a member of a family whose values conflicted with what I consider essentially moral. Parents planning to lie to their children about their conception with donor egg/sperm were out. Heterosexual couples, whose options for starting a family were so broad compared to gay parents, were not the recipients for me. I also ruled out single moms because I know how hard it is to care for an infant when a parent does not have a partner.

Still, I had been convinced to change what I originally considered essential recipient criteria by the wonderful child-centered attitude of the couple I ultimately chose. Though I had at first wanted the children to be raised Jewish, in accordance with their bloodline, Jenny and Erin were magnificent, good-hearted people who had a lot of love to give a child. They would pass along the right values even without the benefit of millennia of Jewish wisdom (and with more humility than I could muster).

Shedding criteria that were not essential did not mean abandoning my core values. I still wanted a child from this donation to have the right to know his or her origins, both ethnically and genetically. I wanted to make sure the clinic could not pressure the recipients to implant multiple embryos at once, causing them to exponentially increase their risk of having disabled twins or triplets. And if the recipients changed their minds, I wanted the unused embryos back so they went to another family who also met my concerns.

Jenny and Erin had been so open and flexible but now we were down to brass tacks. I included as few terms in the proposed contract as I possibly could but I was still asking a lot. As we waited to hear their response, I wondered if I had over-stepped. My wife and I had accepted them, but would they accept us? I really liked these women, and I hoped their answer would be "yes".