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Legally Speaking

A column highlighting recent court decisions affecting the assisted reproductive technologies and the families they create, written by Susan L. Crockin, J.D.  

“Legally Speaking: A Column Highlighting Recent Court Decisions Affecting the ARTs and the Families They Create” returns to ASRM amidst extraordinary legal developments impacting the assisted reproductive technologies. The column will appear online monthly in ASRM News, with links to court decisions for those who wish to delve directly into the courts' opinions. There will be guest authors to add expertise and unique perspectives related to significant legal topics. “Legally Speaking®” will continue its commitment to not only report on new and noteworthy court cases but also analyze their potential impact and significance on the practice of ART.  --Susan Crockin, JD

Legally Speaking Pays Tribute to Dr. Howard W. Jones, Jr.'s Singular Contributions to ART Law, Ethics and Policy

Legally Speaking September 18, 2015

This month, as IVF pre-implantation embryos once again dominate legal news with an international court upholding Italy’s ban prohibiting a widow’s embryo donation for research (Parillo v. Italy, ECHR 8/27/15), and appeals pending in the U.S. over disputed control over two former couples’ pre-implantation IVF embryos U.S. cases (Findley v. Lee (CA) and Szanfranski v. Dunston (IL), Legally Speaking pauses to pay tribute to the visionary Dr. Howard W. Jones, Jr. (1910-2015).  Dr. Jones’ impact reached far beyond the medical aspects of assisted reproduction, and he leaves a perhaps less recognized, but similarly singular legacy on three related fields: ART law, policy and ethics. This month’s column highlights a few of those notable accomplishments and their impact.

Surrogacy in Australia

Legally Speaking August 14, 2015

Surrogacy involving Australian intended parents has been big international news of late. The infamous “Baby Gammy” case, where an Australian couple left for home without their male twin born with Downs syndrome to a Thai surrogate, has highlighted both the demand of, and the potential risks of, working with Australian couples overseas. Australian courts and government officials, on both federal and state levels, have been involved in addressing recent controversies. This guest column by Australian lawyer Stephen Page presents an overview of the current state of ART law and practice involving Australians seeking to build families overseas.

SCOTUS: Same_Sex Marriage Now Legal in All 50 States

Legally Speaking July 22, 2015

On June 26th, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States(SCOTUS) issued its long-awaited decision on same-sex marriage, ruling that the right to marry is a fundamental Constitutional right recognized under the 14th Amendment that cannot be denied to same-sex couples.  As a result of the Court’s 5-4 decision, every state must now issue marriage licenses and recognize marriages between same-sex couples.  The decision reflects a remarkably swift change of law and policy that began only in 2003, with the first such legal recognition handed down by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in its ground-breaking 2003 Goodrich decision. Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, 440 Mass. 309, 798 N. E. 2d 941 (2003).

French Highest Court Recognizes Children Born Abroad Through Surrogacy

Legally Speaking July 21, 2015

In July, and after years of refusing legal recognition to children born abroad from surrogacy, that country’s highest court has reversed course. The French Court of Cassation’s July 3rd ruling means that children born to surrogates abroad will now be legally recognized as children of their biological French parents, entitled to French birth certificates, and thus able to both confirm the parent-child relationship for all purposes and establish French citizenship. Surrogacy within France remains illegal and the decision does not apply to an intended parent who does not have a biological connection.

Shepherd-Sally Partial Settlement Reached

Legally Speaking July 21, 2015

There has been a partial settlement in the complex set of court cases and a maternity decision in April 2015, involving a child born to actor Sherri Shepherd and her estranged husband Lamar Sally through gestational surrogacy. The child was conceived and born during the parties’ marriage, using embryos created from Sally’s sperm and an anonymous egg donor, and carried by a single mother as a gestational carrier.

Canadian Court Deems Sperm Legal Property

Legally Speaking June 18, 2015

The British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that determined human sperm to be property for purposes of determining storage responsibilities under Canadian provincial law. Lam v. University of British Columbia, 2015 BCCA 2. The plaintiff represents more than  400 patients who froze their sperm after being diagnosed with cancer and prior to receiving chemotherapy treatment that would severely compromise or destroy their fertility. In 2002, power to the cryopreservation units at the University of British Columbia (where the specimens were stored) was interrupted and the specimens were destroyed. The plaintiffs sued the university for negligence and breach of contract. 

Anonymity of Fertility Preservation Patients Protected by the Court

Legally Speaking June 18, 2015

An Illinois court recently ruled that it was permissible to use pseudonyms to protect the identity of 40  plaintiffs in an ongoing malpractice case against an Illinois fertility center. Doe, et al. v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 2014 IL App (1st) 140212 In 2013, Northwestern University reported a malfunction of its cryogenic tanks that stored sperm and testicular tissue specimens, which were cryopreserved by patients intending to use them for future fertility procedures. Many of the specimens were stored by patients who subsequently underwent treatment for diseases that rendered them unable to have biological children without the cryopreserved specimens. The malfunction resulted in the damage or complete loss of the specimens. Forty of the affected individuals filed this claim against the hospital, its faculty foundation, the cryotank manufacturer and the vendor companies involved in the maintenance of the croytanks.

Fertility Preservation Patient Wins Custody Battle over Frozen Embryos

Legally Speaking June 18, 2015

The Illinois Appellate court recently handed down a decision in the five-year long struggle between Karla Dunston and her former boyfriend, Jacob Szafranski over cryopreserved embryos that they created together. In a two to one  ruling, the court affirmed the lower court ruling and granted Karla Dunston sole custody and control of – in the court’s carefully chosen  language, the three “pre-embryos.” Szafranski v. Dunston, 2015 IL App (1st) 122975

More Frozen Embryo Disputes

Legally Speaking May 19, 2015

Movie stars are once again making ART news. In this recent twist, an ex-fiancee, Nick Loeb, has filed suit seeking sole “custody” of two “female embryos” he created with actress and “Modern Family” star Sofia Vergara which he alleges have a “right to live.”

Sperm Donor Not Entitled to Notice of Married Lesbian Couple’s Co-Parent Adoption

Legally Speaking May 19, 2015

Massachusetts is once again in the forefront on same-sex marriage and parentage issues in a case clarifying the status of sperm donors whether known or anonymous.


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