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Fertil Steril. 2008 Feb;89(2):263-77. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2007.09.017. Epub 2007 Dec 31.

Motivation to donate or not donate surplus embryos for stem-cell research: literature review.

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Department of Medical Ethics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.



To review publications regarding possible donation of surplus embryos for medical research.


Review of 67 scientific publications in this field up through January 2007.


Summary of factors influencing prospective donors' motivation to donate or not donate their surplus embryos for medical research.


Presentation of the findings of studies regarding the need and availability of quality human embryos for stem-cell research, discussion of the use of nonoptimal quality embryos for research, and presentation of the findings of several studies regarding the attitudes of fertility patients toward embryo donation for research in general and for stem-cell research in particular. In addition, discussion of the difficulty of such decision making and presentation of suggested strategies to facilitate reasoned, reflective, and timely decisions by prospective donors.


The major part of this article presents the findings of studies regarding the factors influencing couples' decisions about whether or not to donate surplus embryos for research. Research purpose, treatment stage, embryo quality, religious beliefs, and altruism appear to be important for donation. Being at the beginning of treatment, not knowing the aim of medical research, or having good-quality embryos appear to motivate those who answer that they do not want to donate.

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