Judge Orders Woman's Embryos Thawed & Destroyed Following Her Divorce

lab cultureBeing forced to give up your last chance to have children is certainly a devastating loss, but it's also a legal obligation for 46-year-old Mimi Lee of San Francisco. A judge has ordered that the embryos Lee had frozen in 2010 with her then-husband Stephen Findley must be thawed and destroyed in accordance with an agreement the couple signed.

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Lee claims she "misunderstood" the IVF clinic's agreement, which stated that in the event of a divorce, Lee and Findley's five embryos would be discarded. Not only did that theoretical divorce end up happening, it also ended up being a particularly bitter one, and Findley expressed concern about being "forced" into fatherhood with his ex. Lee says she thought she could change her mind about discarding the embryos if she and her husband split (the pair decided to freeze them when Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer), but the judge found the agreement to be binding, writing that "cold legal principles" were the only way to settle this "disturbing consequence of medical technology." This was the first California ruling of its kind.

It's an incredibly complex situation on multiple levels. Making things worse, of course, is that in addition to this defeat, Lee has also suffered through a divorce and a bout of breast cancer in a relatively short period of time. It's sad to think that after everything she's been through, she has no choice but to give up her last shot at having biological children, too. At the same time, she did sign a legally binding document -- and Findley naturally deserves some say in the matter. 

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Perhaps the best way to look at this story is as a cautionary tale for anyone embarking on a similar path to fertility: Read every document that you sign extremely thoroughly, and be sure to consider every possible outcome before making any decisions. And here's hoping the next few years are better for Lee than the last few have been!

 

Image via Umberto Salvagnin/Flickr

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