Judge Awards Frozen Embryos to Woman, Even Though Boyfriend Didn’t Consent

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 19, 2014   |   5:08PM   |   Chicago, IL

Welcome to the muddy ethical world of in-vitro fertilziation.

Here’s a case where a woman was awarded custody of three frozen embryos she and her boyfriend created, even though he doesn’t consent to having them implanted. The judge in the case said the woman’s “desire to have biological child” outweighs the boyfriend’s privacy concerns.

Karla Dunston was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in March 2010 and asked then-boyfriend to give his sperm for frozen embryos. He agreed and they create three embryos – but two months later he broke up with her and said he no longer wanted children.

gavelAlthough they had signed agreement saying both needed to consent to use embryos, a judge ruled Dunston’s cancer treatment left her infertile and she argued she has the right to biological children and “it is too late for him to back out of his promises.”

What do you think?

Here’s more from the London Daily Mail:

Szafranski says he will appeal.

Dunston, 42, maintains that she has the right to have her biological children and should control the future of the embryos, while her ex-boyfriend Jacob Szafranski, 32, argues that he never agreed to give up his say in the matter.

Dunston has since gone on to carry and give birth to a son – using a donor egg and donor sperm, Szafranski’s attorney confirmed. But he added that would not affect the outcome of the case as the court distinguishes between a child that is biological and ‘essentially adopted’.

The couple, who met through their work in a Chicago hospital, had been dating for just five months when Dunston received her diagnosis.

After Szafranski agreed to provide his semen, he gave a sample at Northwestern Hospital’s fertility clinic, the Chicago Tribunereported.

After the fallout, a Cook County trial court awarded Dunston rights to the embryos, but Szafranski appealed and a higher court sent the case back, explaining that the case focuses on prior agreements rather than the interests of either party.

The battle now concerns whether the pact occurred when Szafranski gave the sample or when they signed the medical consent form requiring joint consent for the use of the embryos.

His attorney, Brian Schroeder, argued that couples often change their minds about having children and the courts should not be involved.

But Dunston’s lawyer, Abram Moore, countered: ‘At this point, that sperm no longer exists. It has fertilized an egg and become something entirely different: a pre-embryo. It is now too late for him to back out of his promises.’