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Europe rights court rules UK woman cannot implant embryos without consent

[JURIST] The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] in Strasbourg ruled [judgment] Tuesday that a British woman could not have frozen embryos conceived with a former partner implanted without his consent. Natallie Evans and Howard Johnston entered an in vitro fertilization (IVF) program in 2001 and Johnson agreed to the implantation of the embryos, but later withdrew his consent after the breakup of the couple. The ECHR agreed in October 2006 that it would hear Evans' appeal [JURIST report] after the ECHR ruled in March 2006 [JURIST report] that Evans could not use the embryos. Evans originally appealed [JURIST report] to the ECHR in September 2005 after two adverse UK court rulings, including a loss in the Court of Appeal [JURIST report] in 2004 citing the terms of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act [text] under which consent must be given by both prospective parents for IVF to be allowed. In her final appeal, Evans cited three articles of the European Convention of Human Rights [text], but the court held that there had been no breach of the right to life, the right to respect private and family life, or the prohibition on discrimination.

The ECHR is composed of seventeen judges and deals with cases that raise a serious question of interpretation or application of the Convention or a serious issue of general importance. The first ECHR ruling [text, in French; press release] was consistent with the law governing similar circumstances in other jurisdictions. In the US, courts have so far ruled that each parent has the absolute right to prevent implantation of any frozen embryo under the constitutional right to privacy. BBC News has more.

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