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Frozen embryo case given date in Court of Appeal

30 January 2004
Appeared in BioNews 243

Natallie Evans, one of two British women who was legally prevented from using embryos kept in frozen storage by the withdrawal of consent by her ex-partner, will have her case heard by the Court of Appeal on 23 and 24 March this year. In the latest stage of her continued fight to use them, she will ask the Court of Appeal to reverse an earlier decision that the embryos must be destroyed - her last chance to have a baby.

Last September, the UK High Court ruled against Natallie Evans and Lorraine Hadley, who had sought to use the embryos against a requirement of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, stipulating that consent from both parties is needed for continued storage or use of frozen embryos. Lorraine Hadley decided not to appeal the High Court's decision, apparently due to the withdrawal of her legal aid. The two-day appeal will be judged by Lord Justice Thorpe and two other Court of Appeal judges whose names have not yet been confirmed.

In October, Natallie Evans asked the Court of Appeal to consider the merits of her application and to decide whether or not to give her permission to appeal. Lord Justice Thorpe, Lady Justice Arden and Sir Martin Nourse, sitting in the Court of Appeal, agreed earlier this month that her case raises important legal issues and so warrants a full appeal.

Ms Evans will appeal the High Court decision of Mr Justice Wall on five grounds: first, that her former fiance had consented to treatment together with her and intended for her to carry the embryos created with his sperm. Secondly, that the 1990 Act is wrong, if it allows consent to be withdrawn after the embryos have been created. Thirdly, that in any event, it is too late for consent to be withdrawn as, technically, the embryos have already been 'used' as part of Ms Evans' treatment. Fourthly, that she has a right to use the embryos as part of her human right to privacy and family life, guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Lastly, the law, by granting a 'male veto' over the use of the embryos, discriminates against her in breach of Article 14 of the ECHR.

At the appeal, lawyers will also argue for permission to include two other arguments in Natallie's legal challenge. First, that the embryos themselves have a qualified right to life under Article 2 of the ECHR and, secondly, that her former fiancé should be 'estopped', or prevented, from changing his mind because to do so would be inequitable as Natallie had relied on his assurances to her detriment. The frozen embryos of both Natallie Evans and Lorraine Hadley will remain in storage pending the outcome of the appeal.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Embryo battle: Evans wins right to appeal
Gloucestershire Echo |  29 January 2004
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