The Prohibition of Embryo Donation in Switzerland

A Legal Analysis of the Prohibition of Donation of Surplus Embryos for Reproductive Purposes

In Switzerland, infertile couples are legally allowed to have up to twelve embryos cultivated per treatment cycle when using in-vitro fertilization. Any embryos that are potentially suitable for pregnancy but are not immediately transferred to the uterus may be cryopreserved for another possible transfer later on. These later attempts occur if the previous embryo transfers failed to culminate in a born child or if the couple wishes to have more children. If the couple has completed or discontinued their fertility treatment, there may still be cryopreserved embryos (called "surplus embryos") remaining. In Switzerland, these surplus embryos may either be destroyed immediately or made available for stem cell research, according to the wishes of the genetic parents.

Medically possible would also be the donation of the surplus embryos to infertile couples to enable them to have their own child and to offer the embryo a chance at life. This so-called embryo donation is prohibited in Switzerland. In her dissertation project supervised by Prof. Dr. Bijan Fateh-Moghadam, Valentina Christen-Zihlmann sheds light on why embryo donation is banned in Switzerland and whether the prohibition can be justified by the arguments put forward by the legislator.