1000s of fertility samples may be destroyed

Eggs, sperm and embryo samples of almost 2000 people are set to be lawfully destroyed as a ten year storage time deadline approaches.

In 2004, the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act was passed governing the practice of fertility treatment.

In 2010 the legislation was amended allowing the retrospective 10-year storage period for eggs, sperm and embryos.

Families can apply to have the time lengthened.

One fertility clinic, Fertility Associates, says it has not been able to contact everyone who has frozen samples.

Fertility Associates has spent the past year trying to track down 1700 people with samples 10 years or older that are frozen in liquid nitrogen banks.

“This is urgent, this is within the week they need to make the decision,” says Richard Fisher, the co-founder of Fertility Associates.

Around 300 people cannot be reached and another 650 have not replied to letters.

There are fears that the unclaimed samples may be the only chance some have at raising children.

“What we don’t want to do is for someone turn up on our doorstep in a year’s time and say: ‘I’ve come to collect my sperm’ or ‘I’ve come to collect my embryos’ and we’ll have to say: ‘Sorry, they’ve been disposed of’,” Mr Fisher says.

At least two other clinics, Fertility Plus at Auckland’s Greenlane Hospital and Otago Fertility Services in Dunedin, also hold embryos which may be affected by the deadline.

Sex could become purely recreational by 2050 with large numbers of babies in the Western world born through IVF, the professor who invented the contraceptive pill says.

Professor Carl Djerassi, an Austrian-American chemist and author, said the pill would become obsolete because men and women would choose to freeze their eggs and sperm when young before being sterilised.

He also claims it would end abortions, as no pregnancies would be unplanned.

Djerassi said advances in fertility treatment made it much safer for prospective parents who do not have fertility problems to consider IVF.

Djerassi, 91, is an emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University.

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