Women Lose Court Fight Over
Possessing Frozen Embryos
October 2, 2003
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
LONDON, Oct. 1 - Two women lost their
battle in a British
court on Wednesday to save their frozen embryos and
them to have children without the consent of their
In a landmark ruling, a High Court
judge in London rejected
a challenge by the women, Natallie Evans and Lorraine
Hadley, to a law that states that embryos must be
unless both parties consent to storage and use.
Ms. Evans, 31, and Ms. Hadley, 38,
both underwent in-vitro
fertilization with their respective partners and have
number of embryos in storage. The couples have now
separated, and the men have withdrawn consent for the
of the embryos.
The Human Fertilization and
Embryology Act states that
unless both parties consent to storage and use, the
must be destroyed.
Justice Nicholas Peter Wall heard
testimony in June and
July that it was Ms. Evans's last chance to have
of her own because her ovaries were removed after
found to contain pre-cancerous cells.
She met her former partner, Howard
Johnston, in 1999, and
they lived together until last year when he ended the
relationship. She said Mr. Johnston led her to
he would never stop her using the embryos.
Ms. Hadley was married to her
husband, Wayne, until he left
her in 2000. When they separated, Mr. Hadley agreed
the embryos should remain in storage, but he later
In his decision on Wednesday, Judge
Wall expressed his
"considerable sympathy" for all four people.
"Ms. Evans's case is particularly
poignant, and she is most
deserving of sympathy," he said. But he added, "I
allow my sympathy for Ms. Evans to take precedence
clear terms" of the law.
"The act entitles a man in the
position of these men to say
that he does not want to become the father of a child
woman from whom he has separated and with whom he now
longer has anything in common apart from the frozen
embryos," he said.
He dismissed arguments from the
women's lawyers that their
ex-partners enjoyed, in effect, a "male veto" that
infringed on the women's rights under the European
Convention on Human Rights, saying that men also had
to family and privacy.
Moreover, even if the two men had
given clear assurances
that the embryos could be used regardless of what
in their relationships, such promises could not
the fertilization act, the judge said.
Some 45,000 couples seek in-vitro
fertilization in Britain
each year, and 27,000 couples receive the treatment,
mostly in the private sector, where it costs more
$4,000 for each cycle of treatment.
The British Medical Association
welcomed the court
decision, saying it would be "a very dangerous step
change the rules on consent retrospectively."