This post is going to be slightly different from my previous entries – I’m now going to discuss the hypothetical controversial babies which are very realistically going to be born in the very near future.
Currently in the UK, there is a rather large court case underway that could change the laws surrounding IVF in a dramatic way. Mrs M* and her husband are fighting London IVF Hammersmith clinic for the release of frozen eggs so Mrs M can be impregnated using them – however, the frozen eggs in question are not hers, they are those of her deceased daughter.
The couple’s daughter passed in 2011 in her late twenties after a battle with bowel cancer. She always wanted to be a mother, hence why she paid to freeze her eggs, but she unfortunately died before she could fulfil this wish. Mrs M wants to respect and fulfil this dream by having her daughter’s child herself. Understandably, the Hammersmith clinic which is storing the daughter’s eggs denied Mrs M’s request to use the eggs to impregnate herself by IVF. In response, Mrs M found a clinic in New York which has agreed to do said treatment for £60,000. The couple asked the HFEA for the transfer of the daughter’s eggs from the London clinic to the US one so she can undergo treatment there, but they refused upon the grounds that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that this is truly what the daughter would have wanted without full written permission; therefore, the couple have taken to case to the High Court.
If the courts were to agree to such a treatment, it would be a world first. Similarly to the Diane Blood case, a successful case would put the laws and ethics surrounding IVF and parentage into question and is likely to have an aftershock across the rest of the world’s IVF practices. Would husbands now be allowed to use a deceased wife’s frozen eggs? Surely they would have more right to the eggs than the mother for use in IVF? Although the controversy surrounding the case is high, it appears that a successful case is quite realistic. Lord Justice Treaty from the Court of Appeal describes how, despite initial doubts, he and other judges feel that Mrs M has “an arguable case with a real prospect of success”.
It could be argued that Mrs M having the baby this way isn’t really that different from surrogacy. There have been a number of reported cases previously where the mother has carried their daughter’s baby (whilst the daughter is still alive obviously) as the daughter is unable to maintain a pregnancy. In a similar situation, quite often grandparents raise their grandchild if the parents have deceased/unable to be around. Both of these examples show how it is best for a child to remain in the family, particularly when the parents are not around. Yet, Mrs M’s case is entirely different – I don’t think these rules apply when the mother is deceased before the baby is even conceived.
In addition, an overlooked fact in this case is that Mrs M is currently 60 years old; this brings into question my previous discussion regarding Omkari Panwar and the ethics of allowing an older woman to undergo IVF, especially when they have previous children. At the end of the day, whatever your opinion may be on the matter, a ruling for Mrs M’s case will have huge repercussions concerning ownership of frozen embryos and parentage.
*made anonymous whilst the trial is ongoing
https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/mr-mrs-m-v-hfea.pdf (Judiciary papers regarding the case vs. the HFEA)
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/woman-continues-legal-challenge-to-give-birth-to-her-own-grandchild-using-her-dead-daughters-eggs-a6853596.html (News article discussing the case)
Main image obtained from Extreme Tech.