Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Tennessee Embryos - Part Two

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Tennessee Embryos - Part Two

Article excerpt

JUST when it seemed that reproductive technology could not get more complicated than the Baby M custody case, a divorcing couple in Knoxville, Tenn., made headlines with another kind of custody battle, this one asking: Who is entitled to seven frozen embryos?

The wife, Mary Sue Davis, sought the right to use the embryos to try to become pregnant. Her estranged husband, Junior Lewis Davis, sued for veto power, arguing that he did not want to become a father.

Last September, after a judge awarded temporary custody of the embryos - which he called "preborn children" - to Mrs. Davis, Mr. Davis appealed. The case disappeared from the front page, but not from court dockets. Next Wednesday, the Tennessee Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in that appeal.

But in another bizarre twist, Mary Sue Davis Stowe - who recently remarried and lives in Florida - now wants to donate the embryos to a fertility clinic so another childless couple can use them.

Her former husband objects. "There is just no way I am going to donate them," Mr. Davis told the Associated Press. "If there was a child from them, then I would be a parent to it. And I don't want a child out there to be mine if I can't be a parent to it."

This court battle is reminiscent of a case in 1983, when two embryos were "orphaned" in an Australian clinic after the parents, a wealthy Los Angeles couple, were killed in a plane crash. And last year another California couple sought to have their embryo shipped from a fertility clinic in Norfolk, Va., to Los Angeles, where they now live. The clinic's refusal led the couple to accuse it of "kidnapping" the embryo.

Twelve years ago next month, when the world heralded the birth in England of the world's first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, dilemmas like these were unimaginable. So euphoric were reproductive specialists, in fact, that one professor in California compared this in vitro fertilization to man's landing on the moon in 1969. Now, he said, man had conquered "inner space" as well.

Not quite. Success rates for in vitro fertilization - an expensive, time-consuming procedure - still average only 10 percent, dashing the hopes of many couples who long desperately for children. …

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