Press Release




NEW YORK, Feb. 18, 2009 – The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute issued a new report today, entitled “Old Lessons for a New World,” which suggests that the knowledge derived from adoption-related research and experience can be used to improve policy and practice in the world of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as sperm, egg and embryo “donations” – a subject receiving considerable examination today because of the California octuplets story.

The report identifies several areas in which adoption’s lessons could be applied, including secrecy and the withholding of information; a focus on the best interests of children (is eight at once too man?); the creation of “nontraditional” families, particularly as more single, gay and lesbian adults use ART; the impact of market forces; and legal and regulatory frameworks to inform standards and procedures.

Among the report’s recommendations are:

    • Processes and policies should be implemented to allow children born of ART to learn the circumstances of their births, as well as their biological and medical backgrounds.
    • Research should be conducted to better understand the experiences of all parties to ART, to determine what services would benefit them, and to develop best practices.
    • Market forces should be analyzed to develop a better understanding of how they affect ART – as well as adoption – in order to develop more constructive, ethical practices.
    • States should enact legal and regulatory frameworks for ART to promote ethical practices and provide protections for gamete providers, intended parents, and offspring.

“We still have lots to do to make adoption a better process for everyone involved, and we’re striving to do that,” said Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Adoption Institute. “But we also have long experience and considerable research, some of which clearly could be used to help practitioners of assisted reproductive technologies and the families they serve. The bottom line is that if knowledge is available to help people, especially children, we should be utilizing it.”

“Old Lessons for a New World: Applying Adoption Research and Experience to Assisted Reproductive Technologies” was researched and written primarily by Naomi Cahn, a professor at George Washington University Law School, a Senior Research Fellow of the Adoption Institute, and author of the book “Test Tube Families.” The Adoption Institute published its initial examination of assisted reproductive technologies in 2000, as one volume of its ethics book series; the subject also was part of the Institute’s national conference on Ethics in Adoption (cosponsored with Ethica) in October 2007. This new report provides an overview of many key issues, but does not attempt to address every question – for instance, on whether greater regulation might impact the number of donors and recipients who use the process.

The Adoption Institute’s mission is to provide leadership that improves laws, policies and practices – through sound research, education and advocacy – in order to better the lives of everyone touched by adoption. The Institute is nonpartisan, non-profit and independent of any constituency or cause.

To arrange an interview with Cahn or Dinwoodie, or for more information about this report, please send an email to To learn more about the Adoption Institute and its work, go to, call 212-925-4089, or write to

To access the full report, go to: