BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  UK: England
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Widow loses fight over frozen sperm
test tubes
The sperm is being stored in a Bristol fertility clinic
A widow has lost her legal battle to have a baby using her dead husband's sperm.

The 34-year-old woman, who is known only as "Mrs U", had asked the Court of Appeal in London to overturn an order granted to a Bristol fertility clinic in January allowing it to destroy her husband's sperm samples.

However, three judges dismissed her appeal on Wednesday.

The Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Bristol had said that Mrs U's 47-year-old husband withdrew his earlier consent for posthumous use of his sperm.

Mrs U claimed that her husband, who died unexpectedly last year from asthma, had withdrawn his consent under duress from a member of the medical profession.

We can only guess at the feelings of someone who has suffered as Mrs U has suffered

Lady Justice Hale

Britain's most senior female judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, rejected Mrs U's claims in January but ruled the samples should not be destroyed until the woman had a chance to appeal.

However Lord Phillips, sitting with Lord Justice Mummery and Lady Justice Hale, have now granted the clinic permission to destroy the sperm samples.

Lady Justice Hale said: "We can only guess at the feelings of someone who has suffered as Mrs U has suffered, but we can sympathise and even empathise with them.

"There is a natural temptation to try to bend the law so as to give her what she wants and what she truly believes her husband would have wanted.

"But we have to resist it."

Vasectomy reverse

She said that the question for the court was whether the centre had "an effective consent for the continued storage and later use of these sperm".

Lady Justice Hale said that without the consent, it was "unlawful for them to continue to keep it."

Mrs U and her husband married in 1993. Mr U had two children from a previous marriage and later had a vasectomy.

The couple wanted to have a family and Mr U underwent an unsuccessful operation to reverse the vasectomy.

In September 2000, Mr U had a successful operation to remove his sperm but Mrs U's later treatment was unsuccessful.

Her husband died before she had a chance for a follow-up appointment.

In a similar case, Diane Blood gave birth to a baby boy three years ago after sperm was taken from her dying husband.

She won a two-year battle in 1997 when an appeal court ruled that under European law she could take the sperm to Belgium for IVF treatment.

Click here to go to Bristol
See also:

11 Apr 02 | England
Widow appeals over husband's sperm
08 Feb 02 | England
Diane Blood pregnant again
24 Jan 02 | England
Setback for sperm case widow
01 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Test-tube lifesaver
04 Oct 00 | Health
Baby created to save older sister
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more England stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more England stories