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Embryos to be destroyed after sperm donor withdraws consent

19 July 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1104

An Australian sperm donor has withdrawn his consent and insisted all embryos created with his sperm be destroyed.

Six families currently have embryos in storage created with the donor's sperm. Legislation in the state of Victoria, where the sperm was donated, allows donors to withdraw their consent following embryo creation. Other Australian states only allow the donor to withdraw consent for future donations, not affecting embryos that have already been created. 

Jess and Leroy Natoli, who have three embryos frozen using the donor's sperm and Jess's eggs told the Daily Mail Australia 'Those embryos are half genetically ours.' They described the donor's decision as 'selfish' and felt his decision and the supporting legislation was 'shameful, appalling and heartbreaking all at the same time'.

Another couple, Lissa and Kariah Koehler, have a daughter conceived using the donor's sperm and Lissa's eggs. They have five frozen embryos, which they were hoping to use to give their daughter a biological sibling. Now that the stored embryos must be destroyed, the couple would have to undergo further IVF treatment to have another child. Lissa's previous treatment had a major physical and emotional impact on her and as she is now older, her chances of success would be reduced.

She told ABC News, 'It's, unfortunately, a reality that a woman at 35, compared to a woman at 40 is not as fertile, so the reality for us now is that we would have to start the IVF process all over again.'

Although the couple attended counselling sessions prior to creating the embryos through IVF, they did not recall the implications of a donor withdrawing his consent being mentioned to them, saying 'If it was said, it was very loosely brushed over.'

A 2019 review of fertility laws in the state, commissioned by the Victorian Government had suggested legislation be brought into line with other states, where the donor can only withdraw their consent up to the point where embryos are created. The Natoli's have started a petition, calling the Victorian Government to amend the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act to protect families in a similar situation to them.

Professor Sonia Allan, from Western Sydney University School of Law, told ABC News that couples such as the Koehlers could seek compensation from clinics if they were not properly informed of the legal implications regarding sperm donation in Victoria. 

'They'd be looking at potentially claiming that money back as an economic loss, they might also be entitled to compensation for the emotional aspects of what they've endured,' she said

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