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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 April 2007, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Embryo case: Reaction
A woman has lost her case to use frozen embryos fertilised by her ex-partner.

She has said it was her last chance to have a baby after she was left infertile following cancer therapy.

But her ex-partner has argued that he wanted to chose when and if he started a family.

Current UK laws require both the man and woman to give consent, and allows either party to withdraw that consent up to the point where the embryos are implanted.

Experts in the field give their view on the verdict.


Muiris Lyons, Natallie Evans' solicitor

Diane Blood, who conceived using her dead husband's sperm

Dr Allan Pacey, British Fertility Society

Anna Smajdor, researcher in medical ethics, Imperial College, London

Dr Simon Fishel, Managing Director, CARE Fertility Group

Dr Evan Harris MP, Science & Technology Select Committee

Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the BMA Medical Ethics Committee


MUIRIS LYONS
Natallie Evans' solicitor

"Natallie is bitterly disappointed and hugely upset by this decision.

"This was her last chance to become a mother and it now appears likely that, unless Mr Johnson changes his mind, the embryos will be destroyed.

"Natallie has shown great courage and determination throughout this battle. All she has ever asked for is the chance to use her embryos to bring her own child into the world.

"It is a great tragedy that the law prevents her from achieving this simple goal. Her legal fight is now over. Her sad loss will remain forever."

DIANE BLOOD
Conceived using her dead husband's sperm

"I do have sympathy with both parties, but obviously I can identify with Natallie's views in that I know what it takes to create an embryo, both emotionally and physically from the woman's point of view.

"I must say that I think that her case both legally and morally is very different from mine.

"This case is difficult, particularly if Howard Johnston was counselled at the outset that he had the right to veto any decision to implant those embryos later.

"I think the couple should decide between themselves at the outset who is to have 'custody' of the embryos should they split up.

"That would force the couple to have a serious discussion amongst themselves, and take the responsibility for what they are doing at the outset."

DR ALLAN PACEY
Secretary, British Fertility Society

"It is a very sad situation that Natallie has found herself in, and we'd like to express our sympathy to her.

"To freeze embryos is currently the only realistic way that many women can preserve their fertility before embarking on cancer treatment.

"As in many countries, the UK has clearly established principles of shared responsibility from both the sperm and egg provider concerning the fate of any frozen embryos up until the point that they are transferred back into a woman.

"This will have been explained to Natallie and her partner at the time their embryos were created and the BFS considers that it is only fair to Mr Johnston that this principle has been upheld.

"However, the BFS hopes that this situation might be avoided in the future by encouraging progress to be made in the science and practice of freezing and storing eggs.

"This would mean that women could bank their eggs before cancer treatment, in the same way that men are able to bank their sperm, and would avoid the need to create embryos at that time."

ANNA SMAJDOR
Researcher in medical ethics, Imperial College, London

"As a society we are obsessed with the idea that shared genes are the essence of parenthood.

"Ms Evans' ex-partner does not want to be a father and this apparently gives him the right to destroy these embryos simply because they contain some of his genes.

"There is something deeply amiss here. Ms Evans is not allowed to have her embryos implanted without her ex's consent, yet he - effectively - is allowed to have them destroyed them without hers.

"No couple can guarantee an ongoing relationship, and both parties need to understand and accept that the creation of embryos together is a reproductive endeavour which cannot simply be revoked.

"If this is seems risky or unpalatable, consent should not be given in the first place."

DR SIMON FISHEL
Managing Director, CARE Fertility Group

"This is a very sad day for Natallie Evans and we must all understand her huge disappointment.

"However, the UK and HFEA's position was taken after careful deliberations following several capricious circumstances arising in other countries - notably the US.

The latest legal ruling for the requirement of the consent of both partners involved in bringing into existence an embryo makes paramount the welfare of any future child.

"This has to be the right and sensible decision."

DR EVAN HARRIS
Lib Dem, Science and Technology Select Committee

"While everyone must be sympathetic to Ms Evans' position, her ex-partner Mr Johnston has rights and interests here as would the woman if the position was reversed, as it might be in other cases.

"Parliament was very clear when it specified that the consent of both parties was needed for extended storage and use of embryos stored outside the womb.

"None of the reviews of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act, including the one by the Science and Technology Committee two years ago, has recommended any change in the law and I do not expect the law to change when the 1990 HFE Act is updated shortly as the government plans to do, when it publishes a draft bill next month.

"The ability to freeze unfertilised eggs may give more options in the future for women undergoing ovarectomy, as Ms Evans did, and such patients should also be counselled about the option of having some eggs fertilised by donor sperm prior to embryo freezing."

DR TONY CALLAND
British Medical Association's Medical Ethics Committee

"We have every sympathy for Natallie Evans, and understand why she has challenged the law.

"However, we welcome the fact that the European Court has supported the principle of consent from all parties.

"Having a child is a life-long undertaking to which both partners should be fully committed."






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