03 October 2016
ByAppeared in BioNews 871
A widow has been allowed by the High Court to keep embryos created with her late husband in storage for ten years.
Samantha Jefferies, 42, had already undergone two unsuccessful cycles of IVF on the NHS and had been about to start a third when her husband, Clive, died of brain haemorrhage in 2014 (see BioNews 857).
The couple had stored three embryos with the Sussex Downs Fertility Centre, originally giving consent for them to be kept for ten years, but it was claimed that this was later amended to two years at the request of the clinic. Mr Jefferies had also consented to their posthumous use.
The court heard that the clinic had a policy of offering storage only for the period for which funding had been secured (the couple had NHS funding for two years of storage). However, Mrs Jefferies argued that she could not recall either her or her husband signing the amended consent form.
Mrs Jefferies sought permission from the High Court to store the embryos for ten years, until 2023. The Guardian reports that her lawyer, Jenni Richards QC, told the court: 'Samantha has brought this case because the embryos she is seeking to preserve represent her last chance of having the child of her husband they had both so dearly wanted.'
Granting her request, Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division, said the case 'turned on a signature'. He ruled that it was 'obviously right' that the embryos be stored for the period that was initially agreed and that he was sorry that Mrs Jefferies had to end up in court as the result of the mistake of others.
Her application was supported by the clinic, which has since changed its storage policy, and also the HFEA on the grounds that Mr Jeffries had not signed the amendment, reports the Guardian.
Speaking after the decision, Mrs Jefferies said the result was 'overwhelmingly fantastic – just brilliant, amazing'.
'There was so much compassion within the court, that it didn't feel like it was a fight. It felt like they were more supportive rather than it being a battle,' she said.
Lord Justice Munby said he would give his reasons for the decision in writing at a later date.