We care deeply about helping address the challenging and ever-changing multi-disciplinary issues the ARTs present. We don’t subscribe to the “lawyer as hired gun theory,” but strive to both provide thought leadership and contribute to policy initiatives on a myriad of ART related challenges.
Susan has lectured, taught, written, and collaborated on a host of ART related issues for over 25 years–ranging from expanding affordable access to reproductive treatment to those not only with medical infertility but genetic anomalies and individuals who cannot reproduce without fertility; fertility preservation for oncofertility patients and others; Embryo Law issues, including dispositional options, donation for reproduction and stem cell research, and avoidance of abandonment; developing a national gamete donor registry to preserve and provide access to medical and genetic information, creating and promoting legally accurate vocabulary for ART, and addressing inconsistent international and cross-border ART legal challenges.
Susan has also volunteered countless hours assisting with amicus (“friend of court”) briefs on ART related novel legal issues in the courts.
Access to fertility care
Susan has participated in numerous efforts to expand access to treatment, including ASRM’s Access to Care initiative, as past Advocacy co-chair of national RESOLVE promoting state advocacy efforts, consulting on various state legislative efforts, and working on the 1988 Massachusetts Infertility Mandate, which she was instrumental in passing.
2015 ASRM Plenary Address: Susan’s plenary address at ASRM’s 2015 annual meeting addressed the need to expand access to fertility (not just infertility) treatment for those who cannot achieve a biologically related family without treatment. She built on earlier legislative successes mandating infertility treatment and court decisions to argue in favor of constitutionally grounded and economically supported bases for expanding access to treatment beyond medically defined infertility.
The Massachusetts Mandate: From 1987-88, as part of a dedicated group of grass roots advocates, which grew to include the Massachusetts Resolve chapter, Susan worked to draft, revise, and lobby for the “Massachusetts Infertility Mandate.” She fondly remembers gatherings around her dining room table— piled with infertility patient survey results– drafting arguments and testimony while others worked hand calculators to develop data supporting the positive economic impact of the proposed law. Passage of the law in 1988, was a lifetime highlight for Susan and the many others who fought for equality in medical treatment. Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, who signed the bill into law in 1988, has been quoted as saying he considers it one of his proudest achievements as governor. The impact exceeded our wildest hopes, brought affordable ART fertility treatment to Massachusetts residents for almost 30 years, and remains the single broadest state mandate requiring coverage of ART treatment.
Ethics in ART
Ethics and law are inextricably tied together in ART. Susan is proud of her work advancing ethical practices in ART medicine and law. She is a faculty affiliate in residence at Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics (KIE), the oldest ethics department in any US university. In collaboration with the KIE, she has participated in symposia and is currently working on developing a unique curriculum project involving the interrelated legal and ethical issues and challenges for ART professionals and participants.
Susan chaired the Ethics Committee of AAARTA (the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys) for two years as it took on the challenge of modernizing and expanding a Code of Ethics originally adopted from AAAA (the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys), to address unique issues ART attorneys and their clients face. The Code continues to evolve as the two organizations move toward a single Academy.
Gamete Donor Registry
For more than a decade, Susan has been engaged in ongoing efforts to develop a national gamete donor registry. She is currently part of a SART ad hoc committee investigating the possibilities and challenges of bringing a donor registry online, and was a member of the National Donor Gamete Registry Task Force which earlier attempted to develop a joint sperm and egg donor registry. Susan remains committed to developing a centralized registry that would collect and make possible the ability for those involved to share relevant and updated medical and genetic information.
SART Model Consents
Since 2010, Susan has been a member of the SART Model Consent Committee that is currently updating the 2010 model ART consents the committee originally drafted.
Amicus (“Friend of Court”) Briefs
Educating courts and legislatures about ART is critical to developing accurate, reliable, and essential legal frameworks to protect ART families and professionals. When novel issues are brought before a court, professional societies and organizations have an opportunity to file “amicus” briefs to provide background medical, legal and psychosocial data. Susan has worked for over two decades with efforts by RESOLVE, ASRM, SART, AAAA, AAARTA and GLAD (Gay Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) to draft, revise, and edit briefs that have had a significant positive impact on court decisions and developing law involving gestational surrogacy, insurance coverage, and same-sex family building.
Training Future ART Leaders
Susan looks for ways to teach the next generation of ART professionals, including lawyers, mental health professionals, embryologists, and physicians. Beyond her frequent continuing presentations with ART professionals, she is proud of the number of wonderful law students she has steered into the field, her work teaching annually at the Jones Institute of Medicine’s Masters Embryology course, and helping develop and co-chair, with chair Dr. Andrea Braverman, PhD, and co-chair Bill Petok, PhD, the first national conferences exclusively devoted to ART mental health professionals (2016 being its 4th year).