Until now, the use of the remaining IVF embryos for scientific research did not consider the consent of gamete donors when it is the case. While we disagree with the use of human embryos for investigating because it involves their destruction, informed consent regarding their “disposition” has objective ethical problems. The usual practice in these cases depends on the approval of the recipients rather than the donors’ gametes. We believe that given the tendency to suppress the anonymity of donors, this would mean that donors feel more involved in making decisions about the remaining embryos.
A study published in BMC Medical Ethics last December, untitled Dual consent? Donors’ and recipients’ views about involvement in decision-making on the use of embryos created by gamete donation in research, discusses the issue. Below are some of the points that we think have more bioethical interest.
Consent procedures and the role of gamete donors
“Reasonable disagreement about the role awarded to gamete donors in decision-making on the use of embryos created by gamete donation (EGDs) for research purposes emphasizes the importance of considering the implementation of participatory, adaptive, and trustworthy policies and guidelines for consent procedures. However, the perspectives of gamete donors and recipients about decision-making regarding research with EGDs are still under-researched, which precludes the development of policies and guidelines informed by evidence. This study seeks to explore the views of donors and recipients about who should take part in consent processes for the use of EGDs in research.”
The study was conducted at the Portuguese Public Bank of Gametes. In this study, 72 gamete donors and 175 recipients completed a self-report structured questionnaire.
A Dual consent procedure is desirable
The results were very similar between donors and recipients. “The majority of participants (74.6% of donors and 65.7% of recipients) were willing to donate embryos for research. Almost half of the donors (48.6%) and half of the recipients (46.9%) considered that a dual consent procedure is desirable. More empirical research and further theoretical, normative analyses are needed to inform people-centered policy and guidelines for shared decision-making concerning the use of EGDs for research.”
From a bioethical point of view, the role of gametes donors cannot be excluded because of the very close biological link with the embryo donated for reproductive purposes.