Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Frozen embryo rights

Yesterday the Irish High Court issued its first part of a judgment in a case where a woman wanted to have spare embryos implanted in her womb in the hope of conceiving another child. The embryos were created during IVF treatment when she had a baby a few years ago with her now estranged partner. The man objected to this saying he had not given his consent for the second set of embryos to be used. The High Court agreed with him saying a person could not be forced to become a parent and that the original consent forms signed at the clinic did not cover this situation. The High Court will now have to make a judgment on what is to be done with the frozen embryos raising all kinds of Pro-Life V's Pro-Choice arguments. The pro-life supporters argue that the embryos are alive and covered by the Irish constitutional protection for the unborn.

The irony here for pro-lifers, as I see it, is that this could have serious practical problems for IVF. If an embryo created in a lab is defined as unborn then how will IVF clinics be able to handle them? Could they be forced to use all the embryos in IVF treatment. Could they, in the extreme, also be prosecuted for manslaughter should a fault in their storage equipment destroy the embryos? In theory the right to life of the unborn, should an embryo be defined as unborn, could actually reduce the possibilities for life to be created using IVF which would seem to go against the goals of the pro-life campaign and doom many couples to remain childless.

I also have to wonder what the outcome of the case would have been if the woman had said she was willing to wave all the mans responsibilities for the child. I heard on the radio she had wanted him to be fully legally responsible for the child. I dont know if that was true, I havent been able to find it mentioned elsewhere. You cant force someone into a life long financial and legal commitment against their will purely because someone else wants it. If that was the case I wonder how much did that influence the judges thinking.

Finally what would have happened if the judge had agreed with the woman, or for that matter if the Supreme Court overturns the High Courts ruling and the roles in a future case are reversed. What if a man wanted to use embryos with his new partner? I'm not even dealing with the idea that his former partner could have been made carry the baby for 9 months. I'm talking about the case where he was the one who could no longer father children and his last chance for a child with his current partner were embryos he created with another woman and his current partner was willing to carry the baby. Would the father have rights to use the embryos separately from the mother?

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