Unused embryos remaining after fertility treatment can be donated to other persons looking to grow their family through assisted reproduction.

The Assisted Human Reproduction Act permits altruistic embryo donation, which means an embryo cannot be purchased or sold. In Canada, entering into an agreement for the purchase or sale of an embryo is strictly prohibited.

Embryo donation agreements are an important tool for clarifying the parties’ intentions, particularly in terms of parental rights and responsibilities for a future child. An embryo donation agreement sets out who intends to be a parent and who does not.

In Ontario, section 5 of the Children’s Law Reform Act states that a person who provides an embryo for use in the conception of a child through assisted reproduction is not recognized in law as a parent of the child unless that person is considered a parent through other rules of parentage in the legislation. This means donation of an embryo, on its own, is not enough to automatically conclude that the donor is not a parent of the child.

Other rules and presumptions of parentage are found in the Children’s Law Reform Act. Entering into an embryo donation agreement helps ensure the intended parents (and only the intended parents) are recognized in law as the parents of a child.