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California Court Rules That Embryos of Divorcing Couple Must Be Destroyed

In November, a judge in San Francisco has ruled that the frozen embryos a woman wanted to use in spite of her ex-husband’s objections must be discarded.

The couple signed a consent form after their marriage in 2010 stating that the fertility clinic would destroy the embryos if they decided to divorce. The judge upheld this form in her decision despite protest from the woman, 46-year-old musician and anesthesiologist Dr. Mimi C. Lee, who claimed that the embryos were her only chance to have a child due to her age and previous battle with cancer. She claims that she thought the form was similar to a medical directive toward which she could later be allowed to change her mind, but the court did not agree with this argument, citing Lee’s profession, education, and intelligence as reasons why the alleged misunderstanding was not credible.

After enduring a hostile divorce, Lee’s husband did not want to tie himself to his ex-wife for life by having a child with her, especially after Lee indicated that she would consider using the children against him in the future. The court agreed that the husband’s concerns in this regard were well founded.

There have been at least a dozen other similar lawsuits across the country dealing with embryo disputes, and so far not one high court has decided to award an embryo to someone over the objection of their ex-spouse. According to judge Anne-Christine Massullo, “It is a disturbing consequence of modern biological technology that the fate of nascent human life, which the embryos in this case represent, must be determined in a court by reference to cold legal principles.” Disturbing though it may be to many, more cases like Lee’s are expected to crop up in future divorce cases as IVF technology continues to advance.

Read more about this story via the Los Angeles Times by clicking here.

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