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.
The Lamberts claim the McLaughlins breached the contract by failing to return the unused embryos so that they could be used by them or others. The suit says they do not want the embryos implanted in Jen McLaughlin because of her violation of the contract and "recent behavior in connection with the two embryos."
The McLaughlin lawsuit, filed Thursday afternoon on behalf of Jen McLaughlin and her seven children, says the McLaughlins' interests in "her unborn children" and the embryos' interest in their siblings "is of such uniqueness" to give the McLaughlins legal right to the embryos.
The case has religious and moral twists that make it unprecedented, said Jen McLaughlin's lawyer, Al Watkins.
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