The maximum period allowed for storage of an embryo is 10 years. This may be extended by the Council where there are ‘special reasons’ for doing so in a particular case. Council may only approve an extension on the written application of an eligible person or persons, usually the couple for whom the embryo was created.
It is illegal for the clinic to store an embryo beyond the permitted storage period. The clinic must allow embryos to succumb and will not be subject to liability if the permitted storage period has ended and no application for extension is made. This is as long as the clinic has taken reasonable steps, three months before the end of the storage period, to notify each person for whom an embryo is being stored that the storage period is coming to an end.
Council is unable to approve applications to extend storage after expiry of the approved storage limit.
When I have finished my treatment and have embryos left over that I no longer need what are my options?
- You may give consent to have the embryos removed from storage and allowed to succumb.
- You may give consent for them to be donated for the use of infertility treatment of others.
- You may give consent for the embryos to be donated for research, staff training, quality assurance and perhaps eventually, stem cell therapies. The National Health and Medical Research Council’s Embryo Research Licensing Committee, under a nationally consistent legislative scheme, must license these uses.
Consent for these uses is to be a two stage process. First the embryos are to be declared by the participants to be ‘excess’ to their treatment needs and then consent explicit to the particular licensed use will be required.
Where embryos have been donated for the treatment of another couple, the donating couple are responsible for applying for a storage extension if necessary. The recipients take over this responsibility when they sign the appropriate consent forms.
Where embryos have been declared to be excess ART embryos and donated for a use that requires licensing by the NHMRC Licensing Committee, Licensees are eligible to apply for extensions of permitted storage.