HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, June 1, 2007

Disputes Over Control Of Frozen Embryos Continue

The LaTimes has a story concerning a dispute between a former husband and wife over the disposition of frozen embryos.  It states,

After two years of infertility treatments — from temperature monitoring and artificial inseminations to hormone injections and laparoscopic surgery — Augusta Roman felt her last, best hope for bearing a child was only hours away. Her doctor had retrieved 13 eggs from her ovaries, and six had been fertilized with the sperm of her husband, Randy Roman.   Ten hours before the embryos were to be implanted in Augusta's womb, Randy emerged from their study and broke unfathomable news: Despite all she had endured, he couldn't go through with it.  The doctor's call announcing the creation of the embryos had crystallized nagging doubts about their marriage that he had harbored for years. He insisted on canceling the procedure and freezing the embryos while they attempted counseling to work through their differences. . . .

Counseling failed, and in August 2003, 16 months after the canceled embryo transfer, the couple mediated the dissolution of their six-year marriage. She got the house in this Houston suburb, near NASA's Johnson Space Center, and most of the furnishings. He got the 32-inch Sony TV, a futon and dinette set, and the 1998 Honda Civic.

They could not agree, however, on the disposition of one piece of community property — the three embryos of the original six that had survived the freezing process.

Augusta wanted to take possession and have them implanted, agreeing to release Randy from any financial or parental obligation. Randy wanted the embryos destroyed, or at least frozen indefinitely. He argued that even though he did not want to raise children with Augusta, he would never disavow his genetic offspring. As he would point out in court, the couple had initialed a cryopreservation consent form stipulating that should they divorce, any frozen embryos "shall be discarded."

Roman vs. Roman now rests with the Supreme Court of Texas, one of a number of divorce cases nationwide in which the custody dispute has revolved around microscopic clumps of cells that are considered — by most states, at least — to be property and not human life.

The article provides a good overview of this couple's concerns as well as a brief discussion about where the law stands now and how it might develop in the future.

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