Monday, December 21, 2015

“What am I looking for when I talk with a potential egg donor?” by Andrea Bryman, LMFT

It has taken many years to create the niche I have in my profession, a mental health therapist specializing in egg donation and surrogacy.  I have learned that people are not gray on the subject of third party reproduction.  They have strong opinions.  Once all the opinions have been aired (this can take awhile), one of the first things I am asked is “What am I looking for when I talk with a potential egg donor?”

I thought I would start this initial blog by discussing four of the main
areas that I emphasize in my evaluation of an egg donor: her family mental
health history, her stability, her desire to be a donor, and her ability to
make an informed decision to be a donor.  

In exploring a donor’s family mental health history it is important to gather information regarding any potential psychiatric diagnoses.  Some diagnoses are linked to genetic predispositions that can be passed onto a child.  If there is a diagnosis, i.e., depression -it is important to determine whether it was triggered by an event, which would be considered situational or whether it is an organic disorder.  I also discuss family history of alcohol or substance abuse.  There is potential for a genetic predisposition to alcoholism that both the recipients and donors should be aware of.  Finally, I explore any emotional, physical or sexual abuse the donor may have experienced and if they have received any professional help.  A donor who has experienced some abuse without seeking help may find the
donation process can trigger unresolved issues related to the abuse.  Above all else, my hope is for the donor to have a positive experience. 

One of the major concerns for many intended parents is whether a donor will be stable enough to follow through with all that she needs to do throughout her cycle.  There is a vast amount of information to digest, forms to be filled out, appointments to attend
and medications to be administered.  A donor will need a lot of support throughout the process.  There are many aspects in exploring a donor’s stability – her living situation, her career, her upbringing and current relationship with her parents and siblings, her social network, her personal relationships and any possible legal issues she may have experienced. It is important that a donor be able to form and sustain healthy relationships as well as manage conflict resolution.   More importantly, you want to be sure that she will to do what she is supposed to do! 

What is the donor’s motivation to donate?  Why would she want to inject herself with medications and undergo medical evaluations and procedures?
While initially enticed by the monetary compensation, most donors after
learning more about the process have an altruistic yearning to want to help
others while helping themselves.  In determining a donor’s desire to help others, it is significant to understand how she learned about the process, why she wants to donate, if she has told others about her desire to donate, what she plans to do with the money she receives from the donation and how she feels about the future contact and
disposition of her eggs and the embryos they create. 

Lastly, after determining a donor’s mental well-being, her
stability and her motivation, it is very important to determine if the donor is
cognitively mature enough to make an informed decision to be a donor.  I gather this information by exploring the donor’s educational background and her self-perception.  This information determines if she knowledgeable enough to have the ability to educate herself about the egg donation process and understand the potential medical and psychological issues that may arise.  Is she able to seek out information and ask questions or does she passively take the information given to her?  Often I encourage donors to talk with other who have donated before to get peer guidance in addition to professional guidance.  The bottom line on informed consent is “Does the donor really understand what she is agreeing

To say “Choosing an egg donor is a difficult process” is an understatement.  It is important to realize that many donors have just as many questions about the intended parents as the intended parents have of the donors.  We interpret data and evaluate
information to ensure suitability.  We educate others and ourselves.  We hope
that all parties are being truthful and forthright.  

Andrea Bryman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a specialty in assisted
reproduction, which includes mental health assessments and evaluation of egg
donors and surrogates. Andrea’s focus on assisted reproduction stemmed from her own personal experience with infertility over 15 years ago when she was beginning her family. Since that time, Andrea has had three children, two with methods of assisted reproduction. She continues her professional growth in the field of infertility through research and involvement as a professional member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine including their mental health professional group, the American Fertility Association, European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology and Resolve. Andrea is the Past Psychological Chairperson on the board of directors for the Egg Donation and Surrogacy Professional Association.  

Monday, December 7, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions About Washington State Surrogacy Laws: Guest Post By Christina Park, Esquire

Christina Park is a reproductive attorney and founder of the Law Offices of Christina Park in Seattle. She graduated from Yale Law School. Christina assists intended parents, egg donors, embryo donors, and surrogates and is proud to help build families. 

We are considering surrogacy. What legal issues in WA state should we be aware of? 
It is highly recommended that the intended parent(s) and the surrogate enter into a written surrogacy agreement. This is true even if the surrogate is a friend or relative. 
Surrogacy agreements describe the terms of the arrangement in detail, outline each person’s rights and responsibilities, and document your wishes for who will be the child’s legal parents (with parental rights and duties under the law). 
Surrogacy laws are relatively new and untested. It is difficult to predict the outcome of court cases in this area of law. If disagreements do arise, Washington courts will likely examine the written agreement to understand your intentions and resolve disputes. 
It is important to document the terms of the surrogacy arrangement in your contract. This can provide you with additional confidence and security (both during and after the pregnancy). A qualified reproductive attorney can help you prepare the contract. 

What issues will the legal agreement cover? 
By addressing key issues and potentially sensitive topics, the legal agreement can help set clear expectations from the start and prevent disputes in the future. Surrogacy agreements address several issues, including the following: 
Parents: Who will be the child’s legal parents, with parental rights and responsibilities? 
Payment:What will the surrogate be paid? (In Washington, surrogates can only be reimbursed for pregnancy expenses, actual medical expenses, and attorney fees). 
Involvement:How will the intended parents be involved (for example, with important decisions related to prenatal care and testing)? 
Unexpected Events: What happens if one or both of the intended parents die before the birth? Who will have custody of the child? 
Future Contact:Will there be future contact between the surrogate and intended parents? If so, under what circumstances? 

Can we pay a woman to be our surrogate?
In Washington, you cannot compensate a surrogate. Washington courts will not uphold an agreement to compensate a surrogate; it would be considered a gross misdemeanor. However, you can reimburse the surrogate for her pregnancy expenses, actual medical expenses, and reasonable attorney fees for drafting the surrogacy contract. 

We’re a married same-sex couple, and our child will be born to a surrogate. Do we need to adopt? 
Under Washington law, both spouses in a marriage (including same-sex marriages) are presumed to be the legal parents of a child born during the marriage. However, other states may not recognize this parentage for same-sex spouses. 
If one spouse is not genetically related to the child, you should consider an adoption to establish and confirm parental rights. An adoption proceeding can provide additional peace of mind and help ensure that both parents receive full parental rights, even if they move outside of Washington State in the future. 

I’m single, and my child will be born to a surrogate. Do I need to adopt? 
If you are single and not genetically related to the child (your eggs or sperm were not used to conceive the child), you should consider an adoption or parentage proceeding to confirm your status as the child’s sole parent. 
If your eggs or sperm were used to conceive the child, you may still want to consider a parentage proceeding to establish that the surrogate is not the legal parent. This also protects the surrogate from having financial obligations to support the child. 

Do the surrogate and intended parents need separate attorneys? 
It is highly recommended that the intended parents and the surrogate be represented by separate attorneys. This makes it much more likely that the surrogacy contract will be seen as legally valid, if you ever wind up in court. It is in the best interests of everyone involved to hire separate attorneys for the intended parents and surrogate. Typically, the intended parents pay all attorney fees (including fees for the surrogate’s attorney).

What happens after I hire an attorney? 
The intended parents’ attorney will collect the necessary information and prepare the first draft of the surrogacy agreement. The surrogate’s attorney will review the draft agreement and may request changes. 
You will have the opportunity to read and review the legal agreement. You can discuss questions and concerns with your attorney, or suggest revisions to the agreement. 
Typically, meetings with your attorney may take place either in-person or by phone.
The entire process can take 1 to 4 weeks, depending on how quickly the agreements are read and approved by the surrogate, intended parents, and their respective attorneys.

Christina Park ATTYDisclaimer:  The information provided here is for educational purposes only. The information is general in nature and may not apply to your specific situation. Before taking further action, you should consult a qualified attorney in your state.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Quick Tips for Surrogacy Agency Owners- Say Thank You...

No one can run an agency alone. You have had to get some guidance, advise, inspiration from someone. Thank them. Tell them how they helped you. Show them that you care enough to show your appreciation! It will make you feel great too!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Quick Tip for Surrogacy Agency Owners- Pay Attention

Pay attention. Pay attention to your surrogates and how they are coping. Pay attention to your Intended Parents and how they are communicating. Pay attention to your business and how other professionals are responding to you and your agency. Just Pay Attention to everything!