A Tennessee couple has agreed to relinquish custody of their six remaining cryopreserved (frozen) embryos for free to a good family, but with certain stipulations. Angel and Jeff Watts used in vitro fertilization to conceive their two sets of twins, using donor eggs and Jeff’s sperm, after many years of struggling with infertility, which resulted in an extremely expensive price tag. Now the couple wants to help another family achieve their dreams by giving their remaining embryos away for free. However, they are wanting the family that receives the free embryos to live close by so that any children born will be able to have a relationship with their biological siblings (the Watts’s children). Furthermore, they are requesting that the recipient is a married couple that has been together for several years, is of Christian faith, and that they will use all 6 embryos, raise all of the children together, not to space them too far apart in age, and not leave the remaining embryos frozen for a long time. While Jeff and Angel Watts have received many interested people, they have not found a match yet. While this couple is giving one of the greatest and most generous gifts of all to another family, these requirements seem as though the recipient could be setting themselves up for a lifetime of stipulations and inability to make choices that could be best for their family.
Embryos that are free, only with stipulations, donated from a known individual or couple can carry some possible risks. What if the donor or the Wattses decides later that they want custody? What if the Wattses don’t like the recipients parenting style…do they get a say in the upbringing since they already dictate that the parents must foster a relationship between all of the children? What if the recipients decide that a relationship with the Watts children is no longer an interest of theirs or in the best interest of the child(ren)? What happens if one or all of the stipulations required are not longer possible or preferable? What if the recipients want to move to California? With the stipulations of the free embryos with stipulations these questions must be considered. It is also imperative that the recipients speak with an attorney in Tennessee to discuss the laws regarding embryo donation.
The Watts family seems as though they have the best intentions, but it is difficult to say how they would react in one of the aforementioned situations. They seem as though they want to give these embryos a life that leaves them with little question as to where they came from, which is something common among children of anonymously donated genetic material and adopted children. Where did I come from? Who are my biological parents? An arrangement such as this one is similar to an open adoption, leaving any children born out of this arrangement the ability to answer those questions and obtain some biological history from their genetic father (Jeff Watts). However, they would still have questions as to the origin of their genetic mother, the anonymous egg donor. They would likely have some information since the donor would have had to provide her genetic history. Access to future communication with the anonymous egg donor would be difficult since the donor could refuse to be contacted through the clinic, thus leaving the child with no avenue for other questions regarding their biological makeup.
We truly hope this couple finds the perfect recipient and that the recipient will be sure to contact a professional that specializes in donor embryo arrangements to make sure they are clear on the laws of the state, future scenarios, and the expectations of this generous family.