Bioethics Blogs

Why Choose Open Embryo Donation?

Angela Krueger explains some of the benefits of choosing open embryo donation as compared with anonymous embryo donation.


For a variety of reasons some fertility patients are reluctant to destroy embryos that are left over following the completion of fertility treatments. As a result, there are unknown numbers of frozen embryos in fertility clinics across Canada. Instead of destroying surplus embryos or storing them in perpetuity, fertility patients may choose to donate them to other individuals or couples for use in reproduction.

A number of fertility clinics across Canada offer anonymous embryo donation services to their patients. This involves the anonymous matching of donors and recipients, with little identifying information exchanged between the parties. Typically details such as ethnicity, age, physical characteristics, personal profile, education, occupation, and religion of the donor are given to the recipient family. Equivalent details about the recipient family, however, are not usually provided to the donor. Also, in some cases the donor may never even be made aware of the outcome of the donation.

Only a small number of fertility patients choose anonymous embryo donation for managing their surplus embryos. Patients often regard their embryos as ‘potential children’ and have an emotionally-vested interest in what happens to them.

For the past six years, fertility patients in Canada have also had the option of pursuing open embryo donation. The open model of embryo donation allows the donor to select the recipients. As part of the matching process, potential recipients are assessed by a professional, often a social worker or psychologist, to ensure a ‘good fit’ between the donor and the recipient.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.