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Human rights claim in frozen embryos disputes

Dr Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

29 August 2002

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[BioNews, London] Two British women have begun parallel legal actions to prevent the destruction of frozen embryos created with the sperm of their former partners. Natallie Evans, who is 30, and 37-year old Lorraine Hadley both want to use the frozen embryos stored at IVF clinics to have a baby of their own, despite the fact that the men involved do not now want to become fathers.

The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 provides that the storage or use of embryos without the consent of both parties is forbidden. Having separated from Natallie Evans, his former girlfriend, Howard Johnston wrote to the Bath fertility clinic at which the embryos are being kept to withdraw his consent to their storage and use. Similarly, Lorraine Hadley's former husband Wayne has requested that their frozen embryos be destroyed now that the couple have separated.

Despite the provision of the UK law, the cases are expected to be heard by the UK High Court in the Autumn. Muiris Lyons, the lawyer acting for the two women, says that he will argue their case using human rights legislation. Speaking to the BBC, he said the women 'argue that it's unfair that their former partners have that veto, and they use the analogy that if they got pregnant naturally and the embryos were in their bodies then their respective partners would not have any say at all'. On this basis, he will argue that the women are effectively being discriminated against due to their infertility, and he cites cases in the US and Australia which he believes may influence the court to set a new precedent.

Ann Furedi, spokesperson for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said that allowing the women to use the embryos would 'completely undermine' the current law.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 29 August 2002   Date Updated: 12 September 2004
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