Who abandons embryos after IVF?
This investigation describes features of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) patients who never returned to claim their embryos following cryopreservation. Frozen embryo data were reviewed to establish communication patterns between patient and clinic; embryos were considered abandoned when 1) an IVF patient with frozen embryo/s stored at our facility failed to make contact with our clinic for > 2 yrs and 2) the patient could not be located after a multi-modal outreach effort was undertaken. For these patients, telephone numbers had been disconnected and no forwarding address was available. Patient, spouse and emergency family contact/s all escaped detection efforts despite an exhaustive public database search including death records and Internet directory portals. From 3244 IVF cycles completed from 2000 to 2008, > or = 1 embryo was frozen in 1159 cases (35.7%). Those without correspondence for > 2 yrs accounted for 292 (25.2%) patients with frozen embryos; 281 were contacted by methods including registered (signature involving abandoned embryos did not differ substantially from other patients. The goal of having a baby was achieved by 10/11 patients either by spontaneous conception, adoption or IVF. One patient moved away with conception status unconfirmed. The overall rate of embryo abandonment was 11/1159 (< 1%) in this IVF population. Pre-IVF counselling minimises, but does not totally eliminate, the problem of abandoned embryos. As the number of abandoned embryos from IVF accumulates, their fate urgently requires clarification. We propose that clinicians develop a policy consistent with relevant Irish Constitutional provisions to address this medical dilemma.