Consent and counselling


Consent for assisted reproductive technology procedures

Consent is an essential part of any assisted reproductive technology procedure. Consent ensures that participants understand the risks and implications of a procedure and ensures licensed fertility providers understand any limits that the participant places on the process.

Effective consent

Effective consent:

  • a voluntary agreement, not obtained by coercion or deception,
  • by a person who is known to be able to make reasonable decisions,
  • applies to a specific treatment or procedure,
  • informed through the provision of accurate and up to date information and
  • is provided in writing.

Licensed fertility provides must ensure that effective consent is given by:

  • anyone undergoing an artificial insemination (AI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedure and their spouse/de facto partner (if applicable);
  • gamete (sperm/egg) donors and their spouse/de facto partner (if applicable);
  • gamete recipients and their spouse/de facto partner (if applicable);
  • person/s for whom an embryo was developed;
  • anyone undergoing preimplantation genetic testing (PGT);
  • research participants.

Effective consent must be obtained before:

  • any AI or IVF procedure;
  • the use of donated gametes;
  • the use of an embryo or egg under fertilisation;
  • allowing an embryo to succumb;
  • performing pre-implantation genetic testing;
  • undertaking innovative procedures or research;
  • before conducting any other add-on procedure;
  • using excess ART embryos.
Information to be provided to support consent

Prior to giving consent, the person must have been provided with oral information and written materials.

IVF procedures

Information and consent materials must include:

  • the effect of providing the consent
  • the ability to change the consent or withdraw it
  • accurate, objective information about treatment options and success rates
  • whether a treatment is an innovative or routine practice
  • potential risks, side effects, long term outcomes for participants and any child born from a procedure
  • limitations in current knowledge
  • what will happen with patient data and treatment information including submission to the WA Department of Health Reproductive Technology Registers;
  • information on counselling, including where this is mandated under the Human Reproductive Technology Act 1991 (externa site) or Human Reproductive Technology Directions 2021 (external site)
  • information that posthumous use of gametes is not permitted.

Donor assisted conception

Information and consent materials must include:

  • effect of the Artificial Conception Act 1985 (external site) on legal parentage status
  • what will happen with patient and treatment information including submission to the Department of Health Reproductive Technology Treatment Registers
  • rights of donors, participants and children to access information from the Department of Health Reproductive Technology Treatment Registers
  • medical and social implications of donation
  • limitations on storage, specifying maximum storage period, any conditions impacting when the gametes or embryo may or may not remain in storage, and what is to be done to the egg, embryo or sperm if the person who gave the consent is unable to vary or withdrawn the terms of consent
  • advice on the need for recipients to refrain from sex during treatment (so there’s no confusion over the parentage of the child).

People considering donating excess ART embryos

Information and consent materials must include:

  • the right to withdraw consent
  • limitation on storage
  • advice that further consents may be sought for a specific use and there is no obligation to permit this use.
Responsibilities of licensed fertility providers

Licensed fertility providers must:

Counselling during assisted reproductive technology procedures

Counselling is part of providing effective consent and making decisions relating to assisted reproductive technology.

Counsellors help participants to make decisions about treatment and consider the medical and social implications of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), donation and surrogacy

As part of the consent process, participants must be given the opportunity to receive proper counselling.

Licensed fertility providers must ensure that:

  • all persons undergoing IVF have access to a counsellor; and
  • a counsellor is an integral part of the clinic team; and
  • records are kept on the type and number of sessions of counselling accessed by participants.

Counselling during donor assisted conception 

If using a donor from interstate or overseas, counselling is still required.  The qualifications and role of the counsellor should be equivalent to what is required in Western Australia.

Unknown donation

  • Sperm, egg or embryo donors who are unknown to the recipient must undertake counselling.
  • Counselling is required to include:
    • Why the donor wishes to be involved in donor assisted conception;
    • Potential long-term psycho-social impacts of donation and significance of biological connection for all involved parties;
    • The rights of donor conceived people to obtain identifying information on their donor; and
    • The possibility that a donor conceived person may attempt to contact their donor after they reach 16 years of age.
  • Licensed fertility providers must ensure that potential donors are provided with counselling.

Known donation

  • Where donor and recipient know each other, the donor and recipient (and any spouse or de facto partner of the donor and recipient) must undertake counselling.
  • Approval from the Reproductive Technology Council (external site) is required to undertake a different form of psychosocial preparation prior to the donation.
  • Counselling should be provided before any medical assessment of participants.
  • Counselling is required to include:
    • Why the donor wishes to be involved in donor assisted conception;
    • Potential long-term psycho-social impacts of donation and significance of biological connection for all involved parties;
    • The rights of donor conceived people to obtain identifying information on their donor; and
    • The possibility that a donor conceived person may attempt to contact their donor after they reach 16 years of age.

  • Initial counselling should include:
    • at least 3 hours across 3 sessions
    • recipient and donor (plus spouses/de factor partners) being seen separately and then together.

  • After counselling there will be a cooling off period of 3 months prior to the donation:
    • After the cooling off period, participants and donors should have contact with the counsellor to confirm if they are willing to proceed.
    • Counsellors should also be involved if the donation does not proceed.
  • Cost of counselling will generally be borne by recipients.
Counsellors

It is important the counsellors have appropriate training and expertise in assisting participants in their decision on whether to consent to an assisted reproductive technology procedure.

Counsellors:

  • must be eligible for full membership of the Australian and New Zealand Infertility Counsellors Association (ANZICA);
  • are not involved with assessing suitability for treatment;
  • cannot be one of the people who are performing a procedure; and
  • must be an integral part of the clinic team of a licensed fertility provider.

Counselling costs

Licensed fertility providers must ensure that counselling costs are included in the cost of treatment.

Counselling fees may be directed towards a counsellor outside the practice, where this is arranged between participant and licensee.

Cost of counselling for known donors is generally met by the donation recipients.

More information

Reproductive Technology Unit
Email: rtu@health.wa.gov.au
Mail to: PO Box 8172, Perth Business Centre, WA 6849