Assisted reproductive technology

Updated on 18.02.13

In France, legislation on Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is specific. The 1994, 2004 and 2011 laws of bioethics define ART and the conditions under which these techniques may be used, subject to rules of good practice (some of which are stipulated by the law, such as ART with a third-party donor).

  • ART refers to all the clinical and biological practices that enable in vitro conception, conservation of eggs and sperm, germinal tissue and embryos, transfer of embryos and artificial insemination.
  • A right based on a medical diagnosis of infertility: ART is considered as a medical treatment and is intended to remedy the infertility of a couple, the pathological nature of which has been medically diagnosed, or to prevent the transmission to the child or to one of the members of the couple a particularly serious disease.
  • Conditions for resorting to ART : ART is intended to respond to the desire for parenthood of a couple, consisting of a man and a woman, both of whom are living and of procreation age. The break-up of the couple (divorce, legal separation or the end of cohabitation) will put an end to the ART procedure. The death of either member of the couple will also put an end to insemination or the transfer of embryos (ban on post-mortem insemination or transfer).
  • The application of ART requires the consent of both members of the couple, confirmed in writing after a one-month period of reflection. Before consent is obtained, specific information must be given.
  • The French national health insurance system provides 100% reimbursement of treatment to women until their 43rd birthday or the 4th attempt at in vitro fertilisation.
  • ART with a third-party donor : French legislation insists that an embryo conceived in vitro must employ the egg or sperm of at least one member of the couple, but it authorises the use of eggs or sperm donated by a third party. The 2011 law maintains the principle of anonymity of the donation of eggs and sperm and prohibits any donation that is directed or within a family. On the principle of gratuity, it also prohibits any payment for the donation of eggs and sperm. If this is not the case, the collection and conservation of one’s eggs or sperm is possible, with a view to using them later for ART performed for one’s own benefit. The collection of eggs or sperm from a single donor may not deliberately lead to the birth of more than ten children.
  • Donation of embryos : Embryos conceived by a couple who no longer have a parental project can be donated to another couple, so long as the latter fulfils the conditions for ART with a third-party donor. This donation is subject to a decision by the legal authority (formalising the procedure), which obtains the consent of the couple initially responsible for the conception of the embryo. The principles of anonymity and gratuity also apply.
  • What happens to embryos : Couples are consulted every year on whether or not their parental projects are to be maintained. If appropriate, couples (or the surviving member in the event of a death) can give consent for the embryos to be donated to another couple (in the framework of ART) or given to research, or that their conservation is brought to an end.
  • Clinical and biological ART activities can only be carried out in healthcare establishments, medical laboratories and organisations authorised by regional health authorities.