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Ethics of egg freezing

02 November 2016
Volume 24 · Issue 11

In September 2016, Samantha Jefferies, the 42-year-old widow of a Falklands war veteran, won a High Court case enabling her to keep frozen embryos that she and her husband had created (BBC News, 2016). Despite the couple having signed consent forms entitling them to 10 years' storage and posthumous use of embryos, the Sussex Downs Fertility Centre contended that the embryos must be destroyed as a 2-year storage period had expired. The clinic, however, later changed its position to support Mrs Jefferies.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA, 2016) notes that ‘the standard storage period for eggs is normally 10 years. This period can be exceeded only in certain circumstances’. But in an article that was written before the outcome of the High Court case was known, Professor Emily Jackson (2016: 1) argued that both the statutory time limit and the possible exceptions that permit extensions are not fit for purpose: ‘They work against good clinical practice and potentially represent an interference with a woman's right to respect for her family life, which is neither necessary nor proportionate.’

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