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Case looks at decision making responsibility for embryos

An unusual case has reached its conclusion in a west coast family court. A divorced couple have been fighting over the fate of their frozen embryos. The woman asked the court to allow her to use the embryos to give birth to a child, while her former husband asked that the embryos be destroyed. The court looked at which party should have decision making responsibility in the matter, and ruled that the party who does not want to enter into a parental role should not be coerced to do so. The case may be of interest to Colorado residents facing similar issues.  

The couple married in 2010, and immediately pursued fertility treatment due to the fact that the woman was preparing to fight breast cancer. Knowing that she would likely be rendered infertile, the decision was made to create a number of viable embryos and freeze them for later use. At that time, both parties signed an agreement that stated that the embryos would be destroyed in the event of a divorce.

However, after the couple decided to split, the woman still wanted to make use of the embryos to have a child. The man asked the court to remove his ex-wife's ability to force him into parenthood, citing the couple's bitter divorce as the primary reason he did not want to try and co-parent with his former partner. He also testified that his wife had suggested that the embryos had a price, by asking him what they were worth to him.

The court sided with the man, and ordered that the embryos be thawed and discarded. This leaves the woman with very few options for having a child who shares her genetic makeup. During hearings, medical professionals testified after cancer treatment and at the age of 46, the woman has less than a 5 percent chance of having a child. She has previously vowed to appeal if she lost her bid to keep the embryos, and her attorney has stated that she is now considering her options. For Colorado readers, the case serves as an example of the complex issues that family courts weigh concerning decision making responsibility.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Divorced couple's frozen embryos must be 'thawed and discarded,' judge rules", Maura Dolan, Nov. 18, 2015

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