Fort Myers Reproductive Endocrinologist Launches Embryo Donation International
FORT MYERS—This spring, reproductive endocrinologist Craig Sweet, MD, launched Embryo Donation International (EDI) to provide confidential and cost-effective embryo donation options in a “more transparent, less judgmental and unbiased way” than other embryo donation facilities in the United States.
“That’s why we created EDI,” said Sweet, medical and lab director for EDI, a private reproductive endocrinology and infertility practice located in Fort Myers. “So far, the response from other IVF programs has been overwhelming as they welcome someone such as us with like minds and like hearts.”
Board-certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and obstetrics and gynecology, Sweet also directs the SRMS In Vitro Fertilization and Southwest Florida Egg Donation, Embryo Donation & Surrogacy Programs.
EDI is a subdivision of Sweet’s private practice—Specialists in Reproductive Medicine & Surgery PA (SRMS)—which he created 20 years ago to provide reproductive endocrine and infertility care. After 9/11 in 2001, he added embryo donation services. Two years later, after the nonprofit research institution RAND estimated at least 400,000 embryos were cryopreserved in the United States, Sweet ramped up efforts to encourage patients to use their embryos to expand their own families or otherwise consider embryo donation instead of abandoning or discarding them.
“When so many lives were lost, we spoke about the unclaimed potential life held in cryopreservation within our practice due to abandonment,” said Sweet. “(EDI) is the result of our passionate advocacy for pairing frozen embryos with patients in need based on EDI’s ethical values of nondiscrimination and our core belief that embryos deserve a heightened level of respect and shouldn’t be abandoned or discarded.”
Sweet, whose areas of research as a principal and sub-investigator in 33 pharmaceutical sponsored studies include oocyte cryopreservation, male-factor infertility and embryo donation, is an advocate for truth-in-advertising in the field of reproductive medicine. He emphasized the importance of EDI’s status as one of the nation’s few private, non-faith based and nondiscriminatory embryo donation facilities.
“We advocate a non-discriminatory and non-faith based approach to embryo donation as opposed to most of the market,” explained Sweet. “By non-faith based, we simply mean that we don’t refuse embryo donation or recipients based on their personal religious beliefs. We don’t use a ‘smoke-and-mirrors’ effect of misrepresenting the donation process as an ‘adoption,’ which falsely and unfairly inflates the embryo recipient’s fees and advocates for the embryo to receive the legal stature of personhood—a dangerous precedent, indeed. We don’t discriminate against any persons donating or receiving embryos based on their marital status, sexual preference or religious beliefs.”
For example, Sweet pointed out, the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) requires embryo recipients to have been a legally married heterosexual couple for at least three years. NEDC requires a home study and the completion of an evaluation and education process.
“When embryo adoption is performed, a fairly common practice as I understand, (is that) additional fees are charged that unfortunately escalate the patient’s overall costs,” he said. “NEDC also works very closely with Bethany Christian Services, a Christian based adoption agency that provides an ‘openness planning and services’ service to NEDC, thereby further elevating the NEDC fee schedule by an additional $3,000 and more. Some of my staff have told me that the total possible fees listed on their website are a whopping $19,784, although I have yet to personally crunch these numbers.”
By comparison, EDI estimates total embryo donations range from approximately $7,127 for anonymous embryo donations—the most common form—and $7,689 for approved donations, to $12,869 for open donations—the least common form. The price includes embryo recipient preparation fees, embryo recipient/donor evaluations, rarely requested optional embryo donor genetic testing (up to $744), replacement cycle medications and monitoring, and embryo transfer. If much of the evaluation has already been done when patients approach EDI, the fees may be significantly reduced, Sweet said.
Sweet noted that Nightlife Christian Adoptions/Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program also requires that embryos are “adopted” to heterosexual couples that have been married for a minimum of three years—with an additional obligation.
“They take it a step further by requiring a religious component that the ‘adopting’ couples offer a ‘spiritual home environment,’ demonstrate financial stability and a solid credit history,” he said. “Nightlife monitors and maintains another site called the Embryo Adoption Awareness Center, whose mission statement reads they are ‘increasing awareness and understanding of the hope embryo donation and adoption offers to people struggling with infertility.’ They also name the embryo donation process as ‘embryo adoption,’ and maintain that home studies, adoption agency involvement and education are essential factors in embryo adoption. They present publicly as a resource to embryo adoption and appear to be an educational tool for potential recipients. Interestingly, the site drives all visitors to NEDC for the Embryo Adoption process, information and applicable fees.”
Sweet, a native of Milwaukee, Wisc., and a Northwestern University graduate, ventured into the South via sub-specialty training in reproductive endocrinology, infertility and genetics at the Medical College of Georgia after graduating with honors from, and completing his internship and residency at, the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (SIU). After training, he relocated to Florida, and was quickly published in the areas of transvaginal sonography, recurrent pregnancy loss, male infertility, embryo transfer techniques, ambiguous genitalia and molecular genetics.
Sweet expressed concern about comparing EDI to the competition.
“I don't want anyone to conclude sour grapes,” he said. “I think the other programs out there serve a purpose for some patients, but not for all, and there’s no question they’ve been successful. Both of the major faith-based programs are receiving federal ‘education’ funds, where we have yet to be so fortunate.”
For more information on the company and in-depth material on embryo donations, visit www.EmbryoDonation.com.