Two basic technologies, “intrauterine insemination,” and “cyropreserved embryos” are leading to potentially massive impact on peoples’ lives and the legal community. “Intrauterine insemination” is what many people have always referred to as “artificial insemination.” Although the technique has been around for centuries in animal husbandry, it has also been in use with humans since the late 18th Century. In this method, sperm is “artificially” placed in the female for fertilization. In “cyropreserved embryos,” eggs are removed from the female and fertilized outside of the uterus. The combinations of uses of these procedures and the people these procedures can help are many. The legal implications are also complicated and relatively unchartered at this time.
Interesting opportunities and legal scenarios come from the taking of many eggs from a woman. Couples who go through in vitro fertilization often remove many eggs from the woman and use the embryos to create pregnancy and then “freeze” or “cyropreserve” the rest for future use. Several options present themselves for unused embryos, such as storing them, donating them for research or thawing them and discarding them. If a couple has stored embryos and then divorce, issues have arisen as to what should happen to the embryos that have been stored. It is thought that there are literally hundreds of thousands of stored embryos.
There is some case law out there regarding these issues but there appears to be little uniformity. Three states have passed laws touching on some of these issues. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform Laws proposes a model act called, “ART,” for “assisted reproductive technology.” Lawyers should educate themselves on these matters in order to assist people and open up these magnificent technologies for more use.
(All material taken from the seminal publication on this topic authored by my friend Professor Charles Kindregan, Jr., and Maureen McBrien, Assisted Reproductive Technology, (ABA, 2206) which may be obtained at ababooks.org.)