Two couples in Kirkwood [Missouri] and California who had hoped to share frozen embryos to create an unusual extended family instead traded lawsuits . . . in a legal battle that tests the bounds of child custody law.
-- From "Couples wrangle over frozen embryos' fate" by Robert Patrick, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 4/9/2010
Both couples are suing the other for control of two frozen embryos currently stored in a California fertility clinic.
Their dispute raises ethical questions over the definition of family relationships and even the word that should be used for the transfer of embryos — adoption or donation.
The California couple who first created the embryos, Edward and Kerry Lambert, are suing to secure custody of the embryos from Jen and Patrick McLaughlin, a Kirkwood couple.
The Lamberts had signed a contract with the McLaughlins in February 2009, granting them four frozen embryos.
The McLaughlins used two of the embryos to give birth to twin girls earlier this year. Since then, the two families have feuded over the fate of the remaining two embryos.
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UPDATE 5/14/10: "Families settle dispute over frozen embryos" by Nancy Cambria, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The announcement via press release Thursday failed to clarify which party had gained custody of the embryos, stating instead: "The [confidential] settlement provides that the disposition of the embryos will be in accordance with the original intent of the parties with the hope that the child or children born from the embryos will be raised with other siblings of the embryos."
. . . a dispute erupted in late February over the two of the remaining embryos when the Lamberts informed McLaughlin that they planned to exercise a clause in the donor contract allowing them to take back any remaining embryos after one year. McLaughlin, who believes life starts at conception, argued the embryos should remain with her and their siblings and had hopes of another successful pregnancy where she could keep all of the future siblings together. McLaughlin and her husband also have five adopted children, four of them from Russian orphanages.
"Regrettably, from a legal standpoint, we are still in a situation where we have no guidance for a situations like this. Day in, day out, people are dealing with fertility issues of this nature," [McLaughin's attorney, Al] Watkins said. "Our courts are ill-suited to deal with these situations, and that's a pity."
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