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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Woman 'cannot use IVF embryos'
Natallie Evans wants to try for a baby
A woman who was left infertile after being treated for cancer has been told she cannot use frozen IVF embryos to try to have a baby.

Natallie Evans,32, from Wiltshire, started IVF treatment with her then partner Howard Johnston two years ago.

However, the couple split up and Mr Johnston withdrew his consent for Ms Evans to use the embryos, which had been fertilised with his sperm.

The Court of Appeal has now ruled that Ms Evans cannot use the embryos.

Leave to appeal

However, Lord Justice Thorpe said the embryos would not be destroyed until Ms Evans decided whether or not she wanted to appeal to the House of Lords.

The current Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act - which governs IVF treatment - says that consent from both man and woman is vital at every stage of the process.

Giving his ruling, Lord Justice Thorpe said: "For Ms Evans, this is a tragedy of a kind which may well not have been in anyone's mind when the statute was framed."

Natallie is absolutely heartbroken
Muiris Lyons,
Natallie Evans' solicitor
Mr Johnston says he does not want the financial or emotional burden of a child with Ms Evans.

Ms Evans wants the embryos reserved, saying it was her only chance of having a child of her own. The chemotherapy she received for ovarian cancer has left her infertile.

Her solicitor said she was heartbroken by the verdict.

"Natallie is absolutely heartbroken," said Muiris Lyons.

"Her frozen embryos represent her last chance to have a child that is genetically hers so she is completely distraught at the outcome of her appeal.

"We now have 28-days to consider whether or not to appeal to the House of Lords."

The solicitor added: "The judgment we received today has implications not just for Natallie but for all women who have undergone IVF treatment and who have embryos in storage and all women who are likely to undergo IVF treatment in the future."

Lady Justice Arden said the case highlighted the importance of couples coming to an agreement prior to starting IVF treatment.

"Couples seeking IVF treatment should consider reaching some agreement about what is to happen to their embryos if they separate and also if the genetic father dies before transfer of the embryo to the woman," she said.

"Early discussion could avoid heartbreak at a later stage."

A second woman, Lorraine Hadley, was also involved in last year's High Court case.

She decided against appealing against that decision.

Ms Hadley, from Stafford, had two embryos in storage created during her marriage with her ex-husband Wayne.

She has a teenage daughter from a previous relationship, but suffers from fertility problems because of a medical condition, so could not become pregnant naturally.

After the ruling, she said this hearing had been her last hope, as her embryos which have been preserved for five years were due to be destroyed in September.

She told the BBC: "It's been a long two years and if I'd been successful my chances of success were down to 18%."

"I didn't have very much of a chance but it was still a chance. I'm fortunate as I have my daughter Tara, poor Natalie doesn't have children.

"Until the law gets changed we can argue until we're blue in the face the law is the law."

The BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani
"There is still one more chance for Natallie Evans to be able to have a child"

Q&A: Frozen embryos court case
25 Jun 04  |  Health
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01 Oct 03  |  Health

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