In a decision with far-reaching implications in the murky world of fertility law, a San Francisco judge has ruled that a Bay Area woman cannot implant frozen embryos that were preserved before she and her husband divorced.
It’s the first court ruling of its kind in California involving embryos from a couple that split up.
Dr. Mimi Lee – a 46-year-old anesthesiologist and musician – gave emotional testimony during the trial, saying that the embryos were her last chance to conceive a child. Lee signed a consent form saying that the embryos would be destroyed if the couple divorced, but in court she argued that she always thought she could change her mind.
Lee’s former husband, Stephen Findley, wanted the embryos destroyed, saying that he did not want to father a child with his ex-wife.
In the end, Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo handed an unequivocal victory to Findley, saying the embryos must be “thawed and destroyed” because the consent form is binding.
Judge Massullo said she sympathized with Lee, but she also questioned the doctor’s motives and credibility during the trial.
The decision falls in line with other rulings across the country, but it hasn’t been unanimous. In similar cases in other states, judges have found in favor of the party wanting the embryos destroyed about two-thirds of the time.