Arizona Court Rules Frozen Human Embryo Not a Person Under Law

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 1, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Arizona Court Rules Frozen Human Embryo Not a Person Under Law Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 1, 2005

Phoenix, AZ ( — An Arizona state appeals court has ruled that a human embryo frozen at a fertility clinic is not a human person under law. The ruling came in response to a couple’s wrongful death lawsuit against the Mayo Clinic for destroying some of the human embryos they had frozen and were ready to use.

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that the embryos do not qualify as people under the state’s wrongful death law.

The couple asked the court to include in the definition of person a human embryo who would eventually be a viable unborn child later in a pregnancy. The court said that was a matter for the legislature to decide.

According to an Associated Press report, a 20 year-old Arizona Supreme Court ruling requires unborn children to be viable before they qualify for inclusion under the state wrongful death statute.

The appeals court, in its attempt to define the human embryo as not a person, claimed it tried to be neutral in the case by using the misnomer "pre-embryo" to describe the days-old unborn baby and "embryo" to describe unborn children slightly further along in the pregnancy.

The three-judge panel that decided the case said it could not refer to human embryos as "embryos" because it would be granting them personhood status.

John Jacubczyk, an attorney who is the president of Arizona Right to Life, said he had not had an opportunity to review the ruling, but he disagreed with the notion that a human embryo at any stage is not a person. He said science shows life begins at fertilization.

According to AP, the ruling did not overturn the couple’s lawsuit because the court said it could move forward with claims against the Mayo Clinic on other grounds.