Factors that affect infertility patients' decisions about disposition of frozen embryos

Anne Drapkin Lyerly, Karen Steinhauser, Emily Namey, James A. Tulsky, Robert Cook-Deegan, Jeremy Sugarman, David Walmer, Ruth Faden, Edward Wallach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe factors that affect infertility patients' decision making regarding their cryopreserved embryos. Design: Forty-six semistructured in-depth interviews of individuals and couples participating in IVF programs. Setting: Two major southeastern academic medical centers. Patient(s): Fifty-three individuals, including 31 women, 8 men, and 7 couples. Main Outcome Measure(s): Qualitative analysis of interview transcripts. Intervention (s): None. Result(s): Seven broad themes informed participants' decisions about embryo disposition: family and personal issues, trust, definition of the embryo, prospective responsibility to the embryo, responsibility to society, adequacy of information, and lack of acceptable disposition options. Many wished for alternative options, such as a ceremony at the time of disposal or placement of embryos in the woman's body when pregnancy was unlikely. Conclusion(s): Recent debates regarding embryo disposition do not reflect the range of values that infertility patients consider when deciding about frozen embryos. In addition to questions about the embryo's moral status, decision making about embryos is informed by a range of factors in the lives of individuals who created them. These perspectives may have important implications for the content and timing of informed consent, facilitating embryo disposition, and advancing policy debates about the ethics of frozen embryo use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1623-1630
Number of pages8
JournalFertility and Sterility
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cryopreserved embryos
  • embryo disposition
  • embryo donation
  • embryo research
  • informed consent
  • interviews
  • qualitative research
  • stem cell research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Factors that affect infertility patients' decisions about disposition of frozen embryos'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this