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Final ruling in Frozen embryo case

10 April 2007

After five years of legal proceedings, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has, today (10th April 2007) ruled against Natallie Evans.

The Court held unanimously that there had been no violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights; by thirteen votes to four that there had been no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the Convention; and by thirteen votes to four, that there had been no violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 8.

Solicitor James Grigg, who has represented Howard Johnston throughout the case, answered questions at a press conference in Cheltenham earlier today:

Q: Has Miss Evans reached the end of the road in terms of her legal battle?

“Yes – she has now exhausted all of her possible legal options, both in this country and in Europe.”

Q: Is there any chance that Howard Johnston will change his mind and give permission for Natallie to use the embryos?

“This is plainly a question that Mr Johnston will be expecting in the light of today’s ruling and, indeed, has been asked many times throughout the case.
“He remains resolute in his belief that he and Miss Evans should both consent to the storage and use of the embryos created through the treatment they underwent together.

“Given that their relationship has ended, he would not now elect to start a family with her. He therefore remains clear that he would not now, or at any point in the future, consent to the use and continued storage of the embryos.”

Q: What is Howard Johnston’s reaction to the judgment?

“Mr Johnston is relieved that the case has now reached a final conclusion. He believes this is the only sensible and appropriate outcome in the circumstances.

“He accepts that some people might regard him as heartless for adopting the position he has throughout the case. However, he firmly believes that there must always be mutual consent throughout this treatment or any other IVF process.

“The importance of joint consent was made clear to both parties when they began treatment. If the requirement for joint consent had been scrapped, as Miss Evans wanted, it would mean Mr Johnston would have been forced into parenthood – with the inevitable and consequential moral, legal and financial responsibilities.”

Q: What would you say to Miss Evans?

“Miss Evans’ situation is both sad and unfortunate. However, the fact remains that any two parties who embark on IVF, or any other similar treatment, must retain their right to withdraw consent up until the implantation of any embryos.

“In this case, the circumstances that existed when this couple set out on treatment are now dramatically different. They are no longer involved in a relationship and therefore would not choose to start a family together.

“The law in this area preserves the two important principles of bilateral consent and self-determination. Had Miss Evans’ application succeeded, it would have led to a highly unsatisfactory position which would, no doubt, have had dramatic consequences for any couples who have already embarked on IVF treatment. The basis on which they originally agreed to begin treatment together would have been altered retrospectively.

“Mr Johnston hopes that her wish to start a family can be satisfied in some other way, perhaps using donor eggs.”

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