Azara Blog: EU court rules a woman does not have right to use embryos without partner's consent

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Date published: 2007/04/10

The BBC says:

A woman left infertile after cancer therapy has lost her fight to use embryos fertilised by an ex-partner.

Natallie Evans, from Trowbridge, Wilts, and Howard Johnston began IVF treatment in 2001 but he withdrew consent for the embryos to be used after they split up.

She turned to the European courts after exhausting the UK legal process.

Ms Evans, 35, said she was "distraught" after the Grand Chamber of the European Court ruling, but Mr Johnston said "common sense had prevailed."

Ms Evans was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2001, but six of the couple's fertilised embryos were frozen and stored prior to her treatment.

But she and Mr Johnston, who lives in Gloucester, split up in 2002 and he wrote to the clinic asking for the embryos to be destroyed.

Ms Evans took the case to the High Court in 2003 asking to be allowed to use them without Mr Johnston's permission.

She has argued he had already consented to their creation, storage and use, and should not be allowed to change his mind.

Current UK laws require both the man and woman to give consent, and allows either party to withdraw that consent up to the point where the embryos are implanted.

Ms Evans lost both the case and the appeal and was told she could not take the case to the House of Lords.

She then appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, which again ruled against her a year ago.

Her appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court under three articles of the European Convention of Human Rights represented her last chance to save the embryos.

The court ruled unanimously that there had been no breach of the right to life, but on the right to respect for private and family life and on the prohibition of discrimination the 17 judges ruled 13 to four.

A small bit of sanity. The alternative ruling would have meant that for some obscure reason women should be given preferential control over embryos.

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