Embryo Adoption Law in Tennessee

Often we are asked questions about the legalities surrounding embryo donation and adoption.  While we have previously blogged about this relatively new law in Tennessee, we feel that it’s worth shouting about again.  A big thank you goes to our friends at the National Embryo Donation Center, located in Knoxville, TN, who were instrumental in getting this legislation signed into law!

Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, the reproductive endocrinologist at the NEDC said this:  “Embryo adoption is probably the single most neglected field in assisted reproduction from a legal perspective. This bill gives assurance to the couples who hold some of the over 600,000 frozen embryos in this country, and to those who will adopt them. We expect other states to follow Tennessee’s example, resulting in increased growth of this extremely effective and low-cost family building alternative.”


Here is a summation of the new law:

  1. Embryo Donation is defined as “the relinquishment of rights to an embryo by its genetic parents for the purpose of creating pregnancy in a woman.”
  2. Embryo Adoption is defined as “the acceptance of ownership of a donated embryo for the purpose of achieving a pregnancy. 
  3. The child is legally considered adopted and has the same rights, privileges, and protections as an adopted child. The adopting parents may (but are not required to) obtain a final order of adoption. 
  4. A written contract must be executed transferring the ownership or parental rights of the embryo prior to the thawing and transfer of the embryo. The rights may be transferred to a clinic, agency, or another family. The contracts take effect and become irrevocable at the time of the thawing of the embryo. Any visitation rights except in the case of an “open embryo adoption” are void and of no effect. The permission or agreement to permit visitation or contact in an open adoption does not establish any enforceable rights in the donor or other persons related to the child.
  5. The clinic or agency aiding the donors and adopters in the execution of the contracts must keep records for 21 years after the birth of a child which contains information such as the physical descriptions, medical histories, ethnic origins of the genetic parents and results of any medical or lab tests conducted during the course of the transfer that may be relevant to the child’s medical history. The adoptive parents and any medical professionals are privy to these records to the extent necessary to render services or make health care decisions on behalf of the child. Upon reaching age 18, the child has the right to request and be granted access to their records. 
  6. If donated embryos were created using purchased human eggs or sperm these egg or sperm donors are “not entitled to any notice of the embryo relinquishment, nor will their consent to the embryo relinquishment be required.”  

To learn more about Embryo Adoption please visit EmbryoAdoption.org

(Please read comment policy before commenting)