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European court to rule on frozen embryo case

6 March 2006
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 348

Natallie Evans, a British woman seeking the right to be able to use her own frozen IVF embryos, will hear tomorrow if her claim has succeeded in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Last September, she asked the ECHR to consider her case, having been refused leave to appeal to the UK's House of Lords - the UK's highest court - in December 2004. Her case had previously been rejected first by the High Court in September 2003 and then again by the Court of Appeal in June 2004. Ms Evans' was asking the ECHR to consider whether the law contained in the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFE Act) 1990, which requires her to destroy her embryos, is in breach of her human rights as contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.

The embryos in question were created in 2001 using Ms Evans' own eggs and sperm from her then partner, who later withdrew his consent to their use. The HFE Act requires continued consent from both parties in order for embryos to be used or remain in storage. A withdrawal of consent means that the embryos should be destroyed. The embryos represent Ms Evans' last chance to have her own biologically related child, as her ovaries were removed when they were found to be cancerous. At a hearing last year, permission was granted to keep the embryos in storage while the human rights case was heard and until an outcome was finalised, a legal process that normally takes several years. However, the ECHR expedited Ms Evans' claim because of the nature of the case.

The issues that have been under consideration by the ECHR are that Ms Evans' rights under Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 14 (right not to be discriminated against) have been breached. The court identified two main questions that needed to be addressed. The first was whether the requirement under the HFE Act 1990 of the father's consent to the continued storage and implantation of the fertilised eggs breach the applicant's right to respect for her private and family life under Article 8. Secondly, the court has considered whether the requirement resulted in her suffering discrimination, contrary to Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 8, in comparison to a woman with intact ovaries who could either conceive without assistance or produce sufficient eggs for repeated attempts at IVF.

'These embryos represent Natallie's last chance to have a natural child of her own', said Muiris Lyons, Natallie Evans' solicitor, adding 'the decision on Tuesday marks the end of a long and hard legal battle which Natallie has had to fight in an effort simply to be allowed to use her own embryos'. Ms Evans, commenting on the fact she had to take her case to Europe, said: 'I felt that I had to pursue every possible route to save my embryos. I had hoped to have done this in the UK, but in the end I had no other choice than to take my case to Europe'. She added: 'I just want what every woman wants - to have a baby'.

5 March 2008 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
A UK man has two children he did not know existed, born after his estranged wife conceived using the IVF embryos they had created together, the Sunday Times has reported. The couple were treated for infertility at Bourn Hall clinic, near Cambridge, and the resulting embryos...
30 April 2007 - by Dr Anna Smajdor 
On 10 April 2007, Natallie Evans lost the final stage of a four year legal battle for the right to implant embryos created with her eggs and the sperm of her former partner. Ms Evans had been diagnosed with cancer, and treatment necessitated the removal of her ovaries, leaving her...
10 April 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
The UK woman fighting to use stored frozen embryos against the wishes of her former partner has lost her final appeal. Natallie Evans underwent IVF with Howard Johnston in 2001, before Ms Evans had treatment for ovarian cancer that left her infertile. Mr Johnston later withdrew...
8 December 2006 - by Professor Sally Sheldon 
2006 has witnessed significant litigation regarding the disposal of stored embryos. In the UK, the long-running court battle waged by Natallie Evans has reached its final chapter. Having lost her ovaries to cancer treatment, previously stored embryos created from Ms Evans' eggs and her ex-partner's sperm represent Ms Evans' last...
22 November 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
The UK woman fighting to use stored frozen embryos created using her former partner's sperm made a final appeal last week, to the Grand Chamber of the European Court. Natallie Evans started fertility treatment with Howard Johnston in 2001, but he withdrew his consent for the...
28 September 2005 - by BioNews 
Natallie Evans, a British woman seeking the right to be able to use her own frozen IVF embryos, has asked the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to consider her case. Last December, the UK's highest court - the House of Lords - refused to hear her appeal, after her case was...
15 February 2005 - by BioNews 
Natallie Evans, a British woman seeking the right to be able to use her own frozen IVF embryos, is taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The embryos were created using her own eggs and sperm from her then partner, who later withdrew his consent to...
6 December 2004 - by BioNews 
The UK's House of Lords has refused to allow an appeal from Natallie Evans, a woman seeking to be able to use frozen IVF embryos that were created before she separated from her then partner, who has since withdrawn his consent to their use. The embryos represent her last chance...
25 June 2004 - by BioNews 
The UK's Court of Appeal has ruled that Natallie Evans cannot use the IVF embryos she created with her former partner. Natallie was one of two British women legally prevented, due to the withdrawal of consent by their ex-partners, from using embryos kept in frozen storage. The embryos represent her...
21 May 2004 - by Muiris Lyons 
Natallie Evans was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous ovarian condition and had to undergo surgery to have her ovaries removed. Before this happened, she underwent IVF treatment from which six embryos were created and are in frozen storage. She wants to use the embryos as she is desperate to have a...
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