Markham Fertility Centre Makes Cryo Storage Billing and Disposition Easier for Patients

Markham Fertility Centre is changing the way it invoices and collects payments for reproductive specimens (eggs, sperm, and embryos) that are held in cryo-storage at our facility.  We now offer automated monthly or annual payment plans, which are provided through Fertility Billing Solution (FBS), a Canadian company we have partnered with to improve our approach to billing and disposition of your reproductive material.  As we embark on this new partnership with FBS, we thought it would be important to post about both storage and disposition options available to our patients.

Why did we change our approach to billing?

Managing the storage of specimens is a big challenge for fertility clinics given the sheer number of specimens in cryo storage tanks that have accumulated over three decades of assisted reproduction in Canada.  At Markham Fertility Centre, we have very robust systems to ensure the ongoing safety and security of specimens.  However, the systems for managing the billing and disposition process are dated, until now.  With Fertility Billing Solution, Markham Fertility Centre aims to modernize and simplify storage decisions.   Here’s how:

Automated monthly billing will start on May 1, 2024

Patients who have an annual storage amount due (defined as the anniversary of the month specimens were frozen or transferred into our lab) will receive an e-mail or letter from Fertility Billing Solution (FBS) on behalf of Markham Fertility Centre asking them to register for automated billing.  By registering with FBS, you will be able to take advantage of monthly billing. By choosing monthly billing, you will only be charged for the time that your specimens are in storage.  Once you use, discard, or donate your reproductive material, billing will automatically stop, and you will no longer be charged.  To accommodate those who anticipate longer term storage, we still offer an annual option for which there is a modestly lower fee. However, with annual billing you are committing to an entire year even if your specimens are used, donated, or discarded in less than 12 months.

Electronic Consent for Disposition of Eggs, Sperm, and/or Embryos

At some point, every patient who freezes their reproductive material will be faced with the decision of what to do once they no longer have a need for their eggs, sperm, or embryos.  If you have sperm, eggs, or embryos in storage, you know that it was not an easy process to undertake to produce them.  In addition to the financial, physical, and emotional effort involved in producing your reproductive material, there can be a very personal connection to the decisions that follow. The decision of what to do with excess eggs, sperm, and embryos can generate considerable discussion and reflection.  We are always here to help should you need more information about your options.  

Through Fertility Billing Solution, you will now be able to request and complete the disposition forms electronically, which are necessary to terminate a storage agreement.  These forms can be sent to you (and your partner, if applicable), electronically for your signature.  A valid form of government ID is needed so that we can verify identity. You will always have the option to speak to your fertility specialist and one of our Genetic Counsellors should you need more information before making a decision.

What are your options when storing eggs, sperm, and/or embryos?

There are a number of options available to you should you wish to end storage of your reproductive material.  All options are regulated by Section 8 of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (2004), also entitled ‘Consent for Use of Human Reproductive Material and In Vitro Embryos Regulations’.   In addition to these federal regulations, an additional set of regulations called ‘Safety of Sperm and Ova Regulations’ set out the conditions in which eggs and sperm may be donated to and used by a third Party. Here is a brief outline of your options:

1. Ongoing Storage of Eggs, Sperm, and/or Embryos

The first option for your eggs, embryos, or sperm is to continue to store them at our facility. Tissue specimens are kept in special tanks and can be stored indefinitely. They are preserved in such a way that they can be used even many years later.  Fertility clinics charge patients a monthly or annual fee for keeping patient’s specimens safely preserved. Markham Fertility Centre is proud to continue to offer competitive cryo-storage fees, now with automated monthly or annual billing through Fertility Billing Solution.

2. Discarding Excess Eggs, Sperm, and/or Embryos

If your journey is complete and you have remaining eggs, sperm, or embryos in storage, you may choose to discard them. For our lab to discard your reproductive material, we will need your consent to do so. In the case of embryos, we will need the written consent of both the sperm and egg provider, unless they were from a donor.  Secure online consent forms will be sent to you (and your partner, if applicable) to sign before the lab team removes specimens from our storage tanks.

3. Donating Excess Embryos for use by a Third Party

You may also wish to consider donating your remaining embryos for use by another person(s) to help them build their family..  If donating embryos for human reproduction is of interest to you, we will refer you to an organization called Beginnings Family Services, which specializes in embryo donation.  If you decide to donate your embryos after knowing more about the process, we will send you a consent form to execute your decisions.  For embryo donation, both the sperm and egg provider must have consented to donation of the embryo to a third party.

It is possible to donate excess eggs and sperm for third party use.  If doing so, Health Canada requires that extensive testing be performed prior to freezing eggs and sperm.  The requirement for testing where eggs and sperm are to be used for Third Party use was introduced in 2020 when Health Canada published the Safety of Sperm and Ova Regulations.  For this reason, the option to donate eggs and sperm for the reproductive use of a third party is rare and must be planned for at the time you are undergoing egg/sperm freezing. If you have questions about whether or not your gametes would qualify to be donated to a third party, we welcome you to speak to your health care provider or our dedicated donor and surrogacy team.

Option for excess embryo cryo storage

4. Donating excess eggs, sperm, and/or embryos for use in research in assisted human reproduction or to assist in training in assisted reproduction procedures

Many patients choose to donate their excess reproductive material to be used in research or to support training of embryologists and andrologists. The use of excess gametes and embryos is an important means to improve treatments in assisted reproduction and to help train the next generation of embryologists.  To donate your reproductive material for research or training, you will be asked to sign a consent.

Option for excess eggs and sperm cryo storage

Summary

Markham Fertility Centre always strives to improve the patient experience and we are making it easier than ever for you to exercise any of the above decisions with an automated payment system and a platform for digital consent forms. Patients with eggs, embryos, or sperm currently in storage will receive an enrollment email this year from Fertility Billing Solution. Any patients who wishes to discard or donate eggs, embryos, or sperm can reply to the team to request the appropriate consent forms or to arrange a conversation with a member of MFC’s clinical team to help you make the decision that’s right for you.