Battlepanda: Whose embryo is it anyway


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Whose embryo is it anyway

My friend Aliza asked me for my two cents on this case from last year, which seems to be a sad situation all around.
A Wiltshire woman fighting for the right to become pregnant using a frozen embryo fertilised by her former partner took her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg today.

Natalie Evans, 34, from Trowbridge, wants to use an embryo created by IVF treatment using the sperm of her former partner, Howard Johnston in 2001. Mr Johnston withdrew his consent for the embryo to be used after the couple separated. It is Ms Evans's last chance to have her own child after she had her ovaries removed because of cancer.
Ms Evans says she declined the option of using sperm from donors as a precaution against the father withdrawing his consent since Mr Johnston assured her their relationship would not end.
I find that last paragraph I quoted interesting, not because of Mr. Johnston's "assurance" carries any weight (she should have known better than to take his word for it), but because of Ms. Evans' fear that donors could withdraw their consent. I don't know if her fears are well-informed, but I find it quite incredible that sperm donors could be allowed to retract their consent -- aren't they made to sign release forms for this very purpose?

But that's a side note. Mr. Johnston obviously signed no such release form and I reluctantly conclude that the court decided correctly in not allowing Ms. Evans to implant the embryos containing his genetic material without his consent. However, I also think that Mr. Johnston, through retracting his consent, destroyed some of Ms. Evan's most treasured possessions -- the now-unusable ova that represented her only chance of leaving her genetic heritage behind. Since he cannot un-fertilize the embryos and give her her eggs back, he must redress the situation in some other fashion -- either a fine paid to Ms. Evans or jailtime as punishment for the injury done to her, to be decided by the court.