Bioethics News

Frozen embryos: judge orders their destruction following a divorce

In the June issue of Bioethics News, we examined how assisted reproduction is generating new ethical and legal scenarios, among which are the fate of the frozen embryos of a divorced couple (click HERE). Here we will now discuss the pronouncement/declaration of a North American judge on this issue.

If the most contentious issue in a divorce is what to do with the children, it is no less thorny when a couple break up and have frozen embryos following in vitro fertilization (IVF). What should be done with them if one of the partners refuses to let the other keep them so that he or she can have children with their genes? Such is a case that has occurred in San Francisco (California, USA), where a family court judge has just agreed with Stephen Findley (45), ex-husband of Mimi Lee (46), and has ordered the destruction of the five embryos that had been created when things were going well between them and now remain stored in sub-zero temperatures in one of the largest assisted reproduction centres in the country. The judicial decision accepted the previous agreement that the couple had signed before undergoing fertility treatment, according to which they gave their consent so that, in the event of marital breakdown, the embryos would be destroyed. Findley asserted he signed it because he did not want his ex-wife to be able to use them after a divorce. However, she alleged that it is the only way that she can become a mother and that, in reality, the previous agreement on the destruction of the embryos was included in a pack of conditions for the centre (which belongs to the University of California) to be able to undergo IVF; thus she considers that it should not be applied (ABC Madrid, 19-XI-2015).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.