A woman in Sydney, Australia is seeking a court order for the destruction of 12 embryos that are not genetically linked to her.
The embryos were created for the woman and her ex-wife Ms B Selkirk, who used IVF to have three children during their marriage: twins who were created using the woman's eggs and a younger child, created using Selkirk's egg. Twelve embryos created from Selkirk's eggs remain frozen. The couple separated in 2016 and are in dispute over custody of their children and division of assets.
'It's horrifying that someone would try to prevent someone else from having children that are not in any way related to them,' Selkirk told The Australian. 'I think if people believed they wouldn't have ultimate control over their genetic material then they might be more hesitant to go through the process.'
Selkirk told the Family Court of Australia that she wishes to use the embryos to have another child who would be a full genetic sibling to her youngest child. All the children and the frozen embryos were created using sperm from the same donor, meaning that any child born from them would be a full sibling of the youngest child and a half-sibling of the twins.
Selkirk asked the Family Court judge Mark Le Poer Trench to transfer the embryos into her name, during an interim hearing last August. According to Selkirk, the embryos had been mistakenly transferred into her ex-wife's name by the IVF clinic.
However paperwork signed during the IVF process specified that the embryos should be destroyed in the event of the couple's separation, and the other spouse has asked the Family Court to order the destruction be carried out.
The judge denied the request and said this case would 'require a decision on the force and effect of the parties' agreement about what is to happen to any stored embryos now that there is no issue that the parties have separated'.
According to Stephen Page, a family lawyer, told The Australian that disputes often occur over who retains the rights to embryos when relationships break down. 'But most people aren't prepared to go to court over it. So then these embryos remain on ice, not being used and not being able to be donated to anyone else,' he said.