Disposition of unclaimed embryos: an Ethics Committee opinion

The ethical permissibility for the disposal and use of unclaimed embryos for research and reproduction is discussed.

VOLUME 116, ISSUE 1, P48-53


Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine


Programs should create and enforce written policies addressing the designation, retention, and disposal of unclaimed embryos. In the absence of program-specific policies, it is ethically permissible for a program or facility to consider embryos to have been unclaimed if a reasonable period of time has passed since contact with an individual or couple; efforts as outlined in the consent form have been made to contact the individual or couple; and no written instructions from the individual or couple with dispositional control exist concerning disposition. In such cases, programs or facilities may dispose of unclaimed embryos by removing them from storage and thawing without transfer. In the absence of specific written instructions, unclaimed embryos may not be donated to others for reproductive use or be used in research. This statement replaces the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Ethics Committee document “Disposition of Abandoned Embryos” published in 2013.

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