Man awarded compensation by Boston IVF clinic
Dr. Kirsty Horsey
Progress Educational Trust
03 February 2004
A fertility clinic in Boston, US, has been ordered to pay 108 thousand dollars in compensation to a man whose frozen embryos were used without his consent to impregnate his estranged wife. The figure represents the cost of child support paid for the man's seven-year-old daughter who, the jury on the case agreed, had been born after the clinic impregnated the child's mother without the man's consent. Part of the payment - ten thousand dollars - was said to be compensation for the emotional distress and depression he has suffered.
Last week, a jury found that Boston IVF had acted in breach of its contract with Richard Gladu. Mr Gladu originally sued the clinic and two doctors in 1998 for three million dollars in damages for breach of contract, negligence and emotional distress. Mr Gladu and his wife, Meredith McLeod, had originally gone together to Boston IVF for help to have a second child. Five embryos were created using his sperm and an anonymously-donated egg. Three were transferred to McLeod, who later gave birth to a son. In court, Mr Gladu testified that at this point he had told his wife that he did not want any more children because their marriage was 'rocky' by this time, and he believed that the remaining embryos would be donated to another couple or destroyed. But Ms McLeod returned to the clinic in December 1995, and the remaining embryos were implanted. Gladu said that he did not know his wife had undergone the procedure until January 1996.
The jury found that the doctors who treated Ms McLeod had not themselves acted negligently. However, it did find that the clinic itself was in breach of the terms of its contract, because it did not seek Mr Gladu's written consent before transferring the embryos to his ex-wife. Lawyers representing the clinic argued that the consent agreement Gladu had signed stipulated that it was his responsibility to notify the clinic that he did not want additional children or that his marital status had changed.
A lawyer acting for Mr Gladu said that it was absurd to believe a consent form that he signed before his wife's first IVF pregnancy would also cover a second one two years later. But a spokeswoman for Boston IVF said that the decision could have negative consequences for the whole fertility industry because, for the first time, a consent form has been found to be a binding contract. 'The patient-physician relationship will become such that you'd better bring your lawyer on every visit', she said, adding that the clinic was 'disappointed' by the court's decision, and will appeal. If the jury's decision is upheld on appeal, she continued, it will mean that fertility clinics will be held to an 'unrealistic standard' to guarantee that both parents consent to every stage of fertility treatment. But George Annas, chairman of Boston University's Department of Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights, said the jury sent out a 'mixed message'. 'They didn't think the doctors did anything wrong, but that the clinic should have had more explicit procedures to make sure they have the consent of the husband every time they did an embryo transfer', he said.
© 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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