Husband Wants Frozen Embryos Destroyed After Divorce, Wife Says No Because She Can’t Have Kids

Bioethics   |   Sarah Zagorski   |   Jul 14, 2015   |   12:53PM   |   Sacramento, CA

In California, a divorced couple is fighting over the future of the frozen eggs they created right before their wedding. Five years ago, Dr. Mimi Lee married Stephen Findley but they agreed to freeze five embryos after Lee found out she had breast cancer. Now Findley claims that Lee is using the embryos as a way to get money.

Initially the couple believed freezing their embryos was the smart thing to do because Lee was unsure if her disease would make her infertile. However, when Findley filed for divorce two years ago he made it clear that he wanted the embryos destroyed. According to the LA Times, the couple’s consent forms, which were signed at UC San Francisco Medical Center, said that the embryos would be destroyed if the couple divorced.

The problem is Lee is infertile and without the embryos, she will never have her own biological child. A professor at Whittier Law School, Judith F. Daar, said before the trial began that it wouldn’t be unprecedented if the judge ruled in Lee’s favor. She said, “While the vast majority of cases resolve in favor of the party wishing to avoid procreation, two recent decisions award the embryos to the woman who wished to use them to have a child.” Daar added that in the cases won by women, both were infertile and had received a cancer diagnosis.

Findley’s lawyer, Joe Crawford, explained in court why his client wants his embryos destroyed. He said, “If a child is genetically his … he will participate in the child’s life. But he fears 18 years of interaction with Dr. Lee. The two had an “extremely difficult divorce” marked by conflict over financial issues.”

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Lee’s lawyer, Maxwell Pritt, argued that it’s Lee’s fundamental right to have her own children and this is her only chance. He also said that Lee would waive any future child support from Findley and raise their child alone. But Judge Daar explained that such a waiver has no legal meaning. She concluded, “The mere fact that the wife is agreeing to take sole responsibility for any resulting child does not alleviate the husband’s potential role in the child’s life.”

As LifeNews previously reported, a similar case is before a California court regarding the embryos of Nick Loeb and Modern Family actress, Sofia Vegara. In May 2014, the couple broke off their engagement after four years of dating. A source close to Loeb explained that he didn’t want to see the embryos destroyed because he’s always believed that life begins at conception. The couple created the embryos through in vitro fertilization.

The lawsuit was filed under a pseudonym and states, “John Doe seeks to ensure that the Female Embryos are not destroyed, but Jane Doe [Vergara] refuses to agree to their preservation under all circumstances.” The lawsuit also alleges that Vergara was both physically and emotionally abusive toward Loeb.

These disputes highlight one of the problems with in vitro fertilization, which is that unused or unwanted embryos are often discarded or destroyed. Unfortunately in 2011, a study in the journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine revealed that 19% of unused embryos are discarded and 3% are donated for scientific research.