You Finished I.V.F. and Want to Donate Embryos. Is There a Tax Benefit?

The Alabama Supreme Court’s in vitro fertilization ruling this year, which held that frozen embryos should be considered children, raised a long list of questions for people worried about their future fertility treatments. My colleague Tara Siegel Bernard and I attempted to answer many of them in February.

But a few unusual ones linger for people all over who want to explore every option. What does the law say about what you can and can’t do with your embryos? Can you sell them? And if you donate them — say, to a university for research — can you take a tax deduction?

Straightforward answers to the questions about selling and donating are elusive.

It is not clear how many human embryos sit in storage across the United States, but plenty of people who put them there worry about losing control over them. Court cases like the one in Alabama, which all but shut down I.V.F. treatments there temporarily, will do that to a person. So will the increasing restrictions on abortion in many states — and the concurrent discussions of when life begins.

It may make sense to act pre-emptively, if you possibly can. But to do what?

Selling embryos seems outlandish, though it may not violate federal law. The 1984 National Organ Transplant Act outlaws the sale of things in or from the human body like kidneys, livers, bones and skin, but it makes no mention of embryos.

All legal considerations aside, there may not be a big market for anyone seeking to sell embryos. Plus, many potential sellers will probably be thinking hard about the feelings of any potential child and the questions that child might have years later.

“The voice that hasn’t been heard is the voice of the children,” said Dr. Sigal Klipstein, a physician and chair of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s ethics committee. “They may be the biggest stakeholders.”

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