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In Vitro Fertilization Agreements Are Binding
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Frozen embryos

Summary: A San Francisco Judge has ruled that the agreement between a formerly married couple is legal, preventing one spouse from taking any frozen embryos when the other does not want them.

The frozen embryos of a divorced couple are to be destroyed, per their signed agreement while married. A Superior Court in San Francisco clarified that directives signed by the couple in question overrule the desires of the ex-wife.


Mimi Lee and her former husband Stephen Findley froze embryos soon after their September 2010 wedding when they discovered that she had breast cancer and was beginning treatments. Lee was 41 at the time, so with her advanced age and the anti-hormone medications for the cancer treatment, it was expected she would become infertile.

The couple underwent in vitro fertilization so they could preserve any chance of having biological children. Once fertilized, the embryos were frozen in liquid nitrogen to use at a future date. Unfortunately for Lee, the couple signed an agreement with the UCSF Center for Reproductive Health before the procedure, stating that the embryos would only be released to one of them if the other died. In the case of divorce or other circumstances then the embryos would be destroyed.

In 2013, Findley filed for divorce, but Lee still wanted to have the opportunity for biological children. She claims the agreement is not binding and violates her right to procreate. However, with the emerging reproductive technologies involving frozen embryos in California and cases where one person wants them and the other person doesn’t, signed agreements have to be respected.

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As one Beverly Hills attorney put it, “The fact that material is cryogenically preserved should not give one party the ability to force the other into unwanted parenthood or to have to relinquish their right to their biological child.”





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