There’s no doubt that medical science has allowed humans to do things once thought impossible. Even if we look only at the field of assisted reproductive technology, recent advancements have made it possible for couples and individuals to have children despite significant biological obstacles.
But assisted reproductive technology has serious legal implications as well as biological ones. And these issues are not always easy to sort out. In fact, some cases are raising questions about what happens when maternal and paternal rights are in competition with one another.
A recent case from Illinois could set a precedent for future cases here in Missouri and around the country as ART becomes more widely used. The parties in the case are a former couple who cannot agree on what to do with the now-frozen embryos they created together some time ago.
According to news sources, the couple decided to create the embryos when the woman was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo treatment that would ultimately destroy her fertility. While she has seemingly recovered from cancer, these frozen embryos would be her only chance to have children who are genetically related to her.
The couple broke off their relationship while the woman was in treatment, and her ex-boyfriend no longer wants her to use the embryos. In previous cases involving frozen embryos, courts have generally sided with the partner who does not want the embryos to be implanted. That being said, rulings in different states have been inconsistent with one another.
In this case, both a district court and an appellate court have ruled that the woman should be able to use the embryos. Recently, the appellate court held that the couple had an oral contract in place when the embryos were created.
No matter which side one takes, it is hard to deny the fact that this type of situation presents difficult legal and ethical challenges. On one hand, a woman planned ahead knowing that frozen embryos would be her only chance to have biological children. On the other hand, many believe that men ought to have an equal right to give or withhold consent when it comes to using frozen embryos containing their genetic material.
While there may be no clear course of action in this case, one thing is clear: Such disputes will inevitably come up again, and cases like this will only become more common.