Infertility treatments are medical procedures and interventions aimed at helping individuals or couples who are unable to conceive a child naturally. These treatments may include assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), or medication to stimulate ovulation or improve sperm quality.
Infertility treatments can involve the administration of drugs, such as fertility medications to stimulate ovulation, hormonal treatments to regulate menstrual cycles, or medications to improve sperm quality and motility.
Infertility laws cover the regulation and licensing of fertility clinics, the legal status of embryos, and the rights of donors, surrogates, and intended parents.
The scope of these laws varies by jurisdiction, but they generally cover the following aspects listed below.
Regulation and Licensing of Fertility Clinics
- Accreditation: In the United States, clinics performing assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are encouraged to be accredited by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART).
- Reporting requirements: Fertility clinics may be required to report data on the success rates, procedures, and outcomes of their treatments to a regulatory body. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects and publishes this data annually.
- Inspections and audits: Regulatory agencies may conduct regular inspections and audits of fertility clinics to ensure they comply with the necessary guidelines, maintain appropriate equipment and facilities, and adhere to proper safety protocols.
Legal Status of Embryos
- Ownership and decision-making: Laws in different jurisdictions may address the ownership and decision-making rights over embryos created through ART. In some cases, disputes may arise over the custody and control of embryos, especially in situations involving divorce or separation of the intended parents. Courts may have to determine the embryos’ legal status and the rights of the parties involved.
- Disposition of unused embryos: Laws may regulate the disposition of unused embryos, including options for their storage, donation to other infertile couples, donation for research purposes, or disposal. These laws may also address the informed consent process for patients and the financial responsibilities associated with the storage and disposition of embryos.
Rights of Donors, Surrogates, and Intended Parents
- Donor anonymity and identity disclosure: Laws regulate the anonymity of sperm, egg, or embryo donors and the extent to which donor-conceived children can access information about their donors.
- Donor screening and testing: To protect the health of recipients and resulting children, laws may require fertility clinics to screen and test donors for genetic, infectious, and other medical conditions.
- Surrogacy arrangements: Surrogacy laws vary significantly by jurisdiction, and some states may explicitly prohibit or regulate commercial surrogacy arrangements. These laws address the legal rights and responsibilities of the surrogate, the intended parents, and the resulting child. For example, they may stipulate the conditions under which surrogacy contracts are enforceable, the requirements for parental orders (transferring legal parenthood from the surrogate to the intended parents), and the permissible compensation for surrogates.
- Parental rights and obligations: Laws may address the legal rights and obligations of the intended parents, donors, and surrogates concerning the resulting child. For instance, they may determine the legal parenthood status of the intended parents, the rights of donors (if any) concerning the child, and the legal obligations of the intended parents towards the child, such as financial support and inheritance rights.
Infertility laws aim to strike a balance between the interests and rights of all parties involved in the infertility treatment process while ensuring that the procedures are carried out ethically, safely, and with due regard for the well-being of the resulting children. Due to the complexity and evolving nature of these laws, individuals and couples considering infertility treatments should consult with legal professionals experienced in this area to understand their rights.