Yesterday I put up a post about a recent case involving posthumously conceived children–which is to say, children conceived with sperm that had been frozen. You can think of this as a problem created from our ability to keep reproductive materials in long-term storage. Here’s another storage problem that comes up with some regularity–and also one I know I’ve written about before, though I cannot find where. (A bit frustrating, I must say.)
Sometimes couples who are splitting up have frozen embryos to deal with. That was the problem in this instance. Godlove Mbah and Honorine Anong had been married. While they were married they created embryos via IVF and a daughter (now three) was born. There were extra embryos that were frozen for possible future use. And then the couple split up. What happens to those extra embryos?
It’s all quite easy if the parties agree–because I think it clear that they can do as they wish. And they might even agree to share them–some for each person. (This is the result I think I wrote about not so long ago, but I sure cannot find the post.) But what if one person wants to use them and the other wants them destroyed?
In general the courts favor destruction. There’s some idea about a person not becoming a parent (here a genetic rather than a legal parent) against their will. I think this probably accords with the views of many readers.
But the court in Maryland did something different. It awarded the embryos to the wife on the theory that she could not otherwise reproduce. Assuming this is true, you can see that the court had a tough choice–either allow the use of the embryos, which means husband ends up with a genetic child when he does not want to, or force the wife to forgo the opportunity to have a genetic child. The one thing you cannot do is take the embryos apart and give each person back their own component.
Is this the right call? Hard to say, especially for me, since I don’t really feel the genetic connection stuff that strongly and both sides here are really playing on that.
One side note: the wife was awarded the embryos even though she was deemed to be an unfit parent of the three-year-old. That’s really surprising to me.