Frozen embryo lawsuit shows varying state views

Frozen embryo lawsuit shows varying state views

7162357_S.jpgFamily planning takes on a whole new meaning as years pass. No longer does it only involve discussions between partners about when to start a family or what kind of birth control to use. Now, family planning conversations in Illinois can include the topic of frozen embryos and other advanced scientific methods. 

A recent lawsuit in a different state highlights the new methods of family planning — and the legal as well as ethical complications that stem from those medical options. There have been and will be similar cases in Illinois about the legal implications of creating frozen embryos.

Freezing embryos can allow people who might be sick or worried for other reasons about their ability to have kids to protect their options. For example, in a recent case, a woman who was diagnosed with cancer and her husband got their embryos frozen to preserve their chance of having their own baby with their healthy embryos.

As a couple, the duo never got to that point. They divorced and proceeded to fight over what was to happen to the frozen embryos. Unlike in a recent Illinois ruling regarding this similar subject matter, the court in this couple’s case ruled that the ex-husband’s wishes to destroy the embryos would be granted. The decision was based primarily on the fact that the couple had an agreement saying that the specimens would be destroyed in the case of their divorce. 

The similar Illinois case went the other way in awarding custody of a couple’s embryos to the woman involved in the case. Cancer treatments impacted her fertility. She and her ex didn’t have a contract like in the other, more recent case. A court awarded the Illinois woman custody of the embryos for that couple of reasons: she had more to lose by losing the family planning option, and there wasn’t a contract stating the embryos should be destroyed if the couple broke up. 

As these embryo custody cases show, opinions vary from state to state, and from case to case as well. The unpredictability of such cases should inspire Springfield individuals to protect themselves from future disputes by combining family planning with legal planning. Just as a marital contract would address child custody in the case of divorce, a contract could also address the custody of frozen embryos.

Source: The New York Times, “California Judge Orders Frozen Embryos Destroyed,” Andy Newman, Nov. 18, 2015

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