Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Custody battle over frozen embyos

There has been a steady stream of news and court decisions coming out of the UK this year regarding all aspects of IVF, including government funding of treatment, warnings about IVF abroad, even liability of sperm donors for eventual offspring. Now from Dublin, Ireland there is the story of a court decision regarding custody of frozen embryos.

An Irish couple has been battling in the courts over what to do with embryos frozen during their IVF treatment several years ago. The husband does not want additional children and wishes the embryos to be donated for medical research. The woman feels the embryos are her yet-to-be-born children and should be implanted in her so she can give birth to them. The court ruled that there was no consent given by the man for future IVF treatments using the frozen embryos, so the woman cannot have them implanted.

There are several issues raised by this proceeding, including the fact that in Ireland there is a constitutional prohibition against abortion at any stage, which begs the question what about the disposal of unused embryos from IVF treatment. The constitutional amendment doesn't make it clear that these embryos are covered. The judge in the case said the case would now move into the issue of legal protection for frozen embryos as persons. The outcome of the next phase of this case could set a precedent for legal treatment of the disposal of embryos from IVF as abortion, a precedent that may be noted and followed in other countries.


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