Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Donating excess embryos

8 February, 2005


Are you familiar with embryonic adoption? I was wondering what the Halacha perspective is on this? (I know that within the Catholic communities they are advocating that Catholic families who have gone through in vitro fertilization and have “extra embryos” that they are not planning on using are encouraged to explore having their embryos adopted by other Catholic Families. Therefore, in light of the Jewish view on family and birth control I would imagine this might be a Halachic concern as well.) Are there any rabbis who have commented on this issue?


Unlike the Catholic perspective, halacha does not view an embryo as a human life. Thus, according to halacha, it is permissible to dispose of excess embryos outside the womb.

Should Jews donate embryos, one halachic concern would be with keeping track of all of a couple’s progeny to avoid any future chances of incest. However, in certain cases, it might be permitted for a Jewish couple to donate an embryo, under rabbinic guidance. Technically, donation is not considered adoption.

If you’d like to discuss this further, we invite you to arrange a personal consultation with a Nishmat Fertility Counselor, a Yoetzet Halacha who has completed additional specialized training in this area. Consultations are free and can take place in person, by phone, or via internet conference.

This response was updated on 11 April, 2021.

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