Judge Rules Divorced Couple’s Five Frozen Human Embryos Must be Thawed and Killed

Bioethics   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Nov 20, 2015   |   10:19AM   |   London, England

When Mimi Lee (pictured) and Stephen Findley froze five embryos, the couple signed a contract agreeing to destroy them if they ever divorced.

The couple did divorce in 2013, and now a judge is holding them to the contract requiring them to “thaw and destroy” the embryos, according to USA Today.

California Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo decided the tragic case Wednesday, ruling that the divorced couple must abide by their original contract.

“Decisions about family and children often are difficult, and can be wrenching when they become disputes,” the judge wrote. “The policy best suited to ensuring that these disputes are resolved in a clear-eyed manner … is to give effect to the intentions of the parties at the time of the decision at issue.”

“It is a disturbing consequence of modern biological technology that the fate of a nascent human life, which the embryos in this case represent, must be determined in a court by reference to cold legal principles,” Massullo continued.

Lee, who had breast cancer, said it was hard for her to get pregnant and the embryos could be her only chance to have a child. 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. The couple went to court over their embryos after Lee decided to fight to keep them.

“I want my embryos. I want my babies,” Lee said previously. “They are priceless to me.”

Her ex-husband opposed her, arguing that if Lee had the children she may try to get money from him, according to the court ruling.

According to the LA Times, the couple’s consent forms, which were signed at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, said that the embryos would be destroyed if the couple divorced.

Disturbing ethical cases like these are becoming more common. In 2014, an Illinois judge decided to award the mother their three frozen embryos, though her ex-boyfriend wanted them destroyed.



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.