Sunday, June 10, 2007

New dispute over frozen embryos

Just in time for Monday's 4th Bioethics class, here's a Dallas Morning News article on the dispute in Austin over the disposition of frozen embryos, involving a divorcing couple and their interrupted plans for an IVF pregnancy. (The article exemplifies one of my pet peeves about journalists' tangential (at best) understanding of legal process. In its last paragraph, the article states, "Arguments before the Texas Supreme Court in the Roman case have not yet been set," but nowhere this statement does the reporter ever say what the outcome was at the trial court level (Family Court? Probate Court? In what county?) or the intermediate appellate level.)

This is a replay of the famous Tennessee Supreme Court case, Junior Davis v. Mary Sue Davis, which was the first case to say that, absent extraordinary circumstances, the ex-spouse who wants to avoid parenthood should ordinarily be allowed to do so:

In summary, we hold that disputes involving the Disposition of preembryos produced by in vitro fertilization should be resolved, first, by looking to the preferences of the progenitors. If their wishes cannot be ascertained, or if there is dispute, then their prior agreement concerning Disposition should be carried out. If no prior agreement exists, then the relative interests of the parties in using or not using the preembryos must be weighed. Ordinarily, the party wishing to avoid procreation should prevail,
assuming that the other party has a reasonable possibility of achieving parenthood by means other than use of the preembryos in question. If no other reasonable alternatives exist, then the argument in favor of using the preembryos to achieve pregnancy should be considered. However, if the party seeking control of the preembryos intends merely to donate them to another couple, the objecting party obviously has the greater interest and should prevail.
Most courts have followed the Tennessee court's lead in this arena.

As for the Texas case, here is the appellate court' s opinion (the husband won: "We hold that the embryo agreement provides that the frozen embryos are to be discarded in the event of divorce. By awarding the frozen embryos to Augusta, the trial court improperly rewrote the parties’ agreement instead of enforcing what the parties had voluntarily decided in the event of divorce. Accordingly, the trial court abused its discretion in not enforcing the embryo agreement. ") and a link to the Supreme Court's docket sheet in Roman v. Roman. Petitioner's reply brief on the merits is due June 15th, though the parties in this case have received many extensions of time during their year at the Supreme Court; all told, the case has been kicking around for almost 5 years (nearly as long as the Romans' marriage lasted). More to follow . . . .
posted by Tom Mayo, 12:54 AM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter