ContractsProf Blog

Editor: D. A. Jeremy Telman
Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Unenforceable Contracts in the Context of Advanced Assisted Reproduction Technologies?

Embryo_8_cellsMore in our continuing series of posts on the topic of contracts issues relating to advanced reproductive technologies (earlier posts can be found here and here). Today's New York Times has a report that includes more information on Nadya Suleman, a 33-year old woman who recently gave birth to octuplets, giving her a grand total of 14 children. One question that has arisen in connection with this story is why her fertility doctor implanted so many embryos. That Times reports that Ms. Suleman's doctor is currently under investigation by the California medical board in connection with her case.

But the Times also provides some insights into the dynamics at work. As we mentioned before, in vitro fertilization is expensive, so women who cannot afford multiple cycles pressure their doctors to implant multiple embryos. Dr. Tien C. Chiu, who formerly treated Ms. Suleman, claimed to have implanted eight embryos in a woman at her insistence only after making her sign an agreement that she would agree to a selective reduction in case several of the embryos developed into fetuses. The Times reports that the agreement was "very likely unenforceable," and that seems right. I also wonder how specific the agreement was. What if the woman became pregnant with triplets? Where would one draw the line?

[Jeremy Telman]

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