A nationwide study of IVF patient experiences, funded by the Australian Research Council, is expected to set the framework for IVF law reform across Australia.
The project, labelled All about the Embryo, will ask people who have gone through IVF and created frozen embryos to have their say on whether Australian laws should be changed, and will be led by health law specialists Professor Jenni Millbank, Professor Isabel Karpin and Associate Professor Anita Stuhmcke from the University of Technology Sydney's faculty of law.
One of the most challenging aspects of the project, according to Millbank, will be to harness the many different perspectives on embryo use and to subsequently draft recommendations for changes in law that expand the currently limited avenues for solving disagreements about embryo use and disposition.
"Different states in Australia have different rules about embryos," Millbank said.
"For instance, limiting the number of years they can be stored for, or setting up mandatory donor registers so that offspring can eventually indentify donors if they wish to.
"The Australian law also prevents payment of money for reproductive donation, including reimbursement of expenses when it comes to embryos," she said. "There are areas where the law simply has no answers - such as how to deal with disagreements about embryos after separation or death."
A key focus of the project is to engage in conversation with people who have undergone IVF. Although most of the research will be done through surveys and interviews, it also involves online discussion via a website forum.
The study will also involve interviews with assisted reproductive technology (ART) providers and government regulators to gather their views on participant based proposals for change.
"We want to start with the choices people want and work back to asking how law should respond," Millbank said. "So, for example, would people rather be able to pay donors some form of compensation? Or be able to have contact with donors when children are still kids?
"By centring the experiences of people who have gone through it, we may come up with very different answers than laws that are framed in the abstract."
For more information about the project visit: www.allabouttheembryo.net