Reading    Possession-frozen-embryos

Women Lose Court Fight Over Possessing Frozen Embryos

October 2, 2003

LONDON, Oct. 1 - Two women lost their battle in a British
court on Wednesday to save their frozen embryos and use
them to have children without the consent of their former

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 destroyed
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 a
number of embryos in storage. The couples have now
separated, and the men have withdrawn consent for the use
of the embryos.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Act states that
unless both parties consent to storage and use, the embryos
must be destroyed.

Justice Nicholas Peter Wall heard testimony in June and
July that it was Ms. Evans's last chance to have children
of her own because her ovaries were removed after they were
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 believe that
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 that
the embryos should remain in storage, but he later changed
his mind.

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 cannot
allow my sympathy for Ms. Evans to take precedence over the
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 by a
woman from whom he has separated and with whom he now no
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 rights
to family and privacy.

Moreover, even if the two men had given clear assurances
that the embryos could be used regardless of what happened
in their relationships, such promises could not override
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, but
mostly in the private sector, where it costs more than
$4,000 for each cycle of treatment.

The British Medical Association welcomed the court
decision, saying it would be "a very dangerous step to
change the rules on consent retrospectively."