Key laws and policies
- ART is regulated in the Embryo Protection Act (Embryonenschutzgesetz) of 13 December 1990.
- Adoption Brokerage Law 2006
- There are also some Guidelines of the German Medical Association about the Performance of Assisted Reproduction:Guideline of the German Federal Medical Chamber 2008.
The Embryo Protection Act (Embryonenschutzgesetz) of 13 December 1990, section 1, provides that certain acts of improper use of reproductive technology are punishable with up to three years' imprisonment or a fine, namely:
- Transferring to a woman an unfertilized egg cell produced by another woman (subsection 1, no. 1)
- The attempt to artificially inseminate an egg cell for any purpose other than achieving pregnancy in the woman from whom the egg cell originated (subsection 1, no. 2)
- The attempt to transfer within one treatment cycle more than three embryos to a woman (subsection 1, no. 3)
- The attempt to fertilize by gamete intrafallopian transfer more than three egg cells within one treatment cycle (subsection 1, no. 4)
- The attempt to fertilize more egg cells from a woman than may be transferred to her within one treatment cycle (subsection 1, no. 5)
- The removal of an embryo from a woman before completion of implantation in the uterus in order to transfer it to another woman or to use it for another purpose not serving its preservation (subsection 1, no. 6)
- The attempt to carry out the artificial insemination of a woman who is prepared to give up her child permanently after birth (surrogate mother) or to transfer a human embryo to her (subsection 1, no. 7)
- The artificial penetration of a human egg cell by a human sperm cell or the transfer of a human sperm cell into a human egg cell artificially without the intention to achieve pregnancy in a woman from whom the egg cell originated (subsection 2)
According to Section 4 of the Act, certain acts of unauthorized fertilization, unauthorized embryo transfer, and artificial insemination after death are also punishable with up to three years' imprisonment or a fine:
- The attempt to artificially inseminate an egg cell without the woman whose egg cell is to be fertilized and the man whose sperm cell will be used for fertilization having given their consent (subsection 1, no. 1)
- The attempt to transfer an embryo into an woman without her consent (subsection 1, no. 2)
- The intentional artificial insemination of an egg cell with the sperm of a man after his death (subsection 1, no. 3)
The law's definition of an embryo to be protected specifically includes "each totipotent cell removed from an embryo that is capable, in the presence of other necessary conditions, of dividing and developing into an individual."
Surrogacy is prohibited by a combination of the Embryo Protection and Adoption Brokerage Laws.
It is noted that the German courts have held that surrogacy is a breach of Article 1 of the Constitution, which states that human dignity is inviolable. To make a human being the subject of a contract is impermissible under German law, as is the use of a third party's body for the purposes of reproduction.
There is also a strict definition of motherhood under the German Civil Code.
Violations or attempts are punishable by up to three years' imprisonment or by a fine (but the egg donor or surrogate mother or commissioning person/couple are not subject to these penalties).
Providing eggs for assisted reproduction is prohibited by law.
The use of embryos for research is heavily restricted in Germany under the Embryo Protection Act of 1990 (Section 2), which makes the derivation of embryonic stem cell lines a criminal offense.
The German Federal Medical Chamber stipulates that lesbian and single women should not have access to ART. However, there is no legislation prohibiting this.
Permitted and regulated practices
Sex selection by selecting sperm is permitted only to prevent a few special, very serious gender-related genetic diseases (e.g. muscular dystrophy). This applies whether sperm are used for IVF or artificial insemination.
German law allows PGD before an embryo’s intrauterine transfer, in order to prevent genetically transmitted diseases.
The Guidelines of the German Medical Association on the Performance of Assisted Reproduction govern when it is possible to use in vitro fertilization.
- Cryopreservation of ova in the pronucleus phase is allowed for the treatment of infertile women
- Cryopreservation of embryos is only permitted if the transfer of the embryo was not possible during the treatment cycle.
The German act and the guidelines try to avoid the creation of surplus embryos, but for those cases in which there are surplus embryos, there are no specific rules on how to manage them.
- Ministry of Health (in English)
- German National Ethics Council, "Cloning for Reproductive Purposes and Cloning for the Purposes of Biomedical Research" (2004)