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When medicine meets law

25 January 2000
By Juliet Tizzard
Director, Progress Educational Trust
Appeared in BioNews 42
This week's BioNews reports on the story of Patricia Briody, who was turned down in her attempts to receive compensation to cover the costs of surrogacy after a St Helens hospital left her unable to have a child by any other means. Ms Briody has found out the hard way that British justice doesn't always seem just.

All the circumstances of Ms Briody's terrible experience seem to make the case for surrogacy expenses perfectly reasonable. The hospital where she delivered her second dead baby was found negligent by making her have a natural delivery. As a result of her treatment at the hospital, where she had to undergo an emergency hysterectomy, she was left unable to have a child by any other means than surrogacy.

Given this tragic chain of events, it seems perfectly reasonably that Patricia Briody should be given damages in order to pay for a surrogate mother to carry a child for her. But the law doesn't always act according to what seems right and proper. According to expert witnesses, Ms Briody's chance of having a surrogate baby using her own eggs was 1 percent. With those odds, the judge was reluctant to endorse such a course of action.

The real tragedy in this case, however, seems to be that no-one suggested to Patricia Briody sooner that she might have a case against her health authority. If she had been able to bring a case sooner, she would have been much younger and would have stood a much better chance of having a child through surrogacy. Perhaps then the judge would have supported her claim.

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