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Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust v Mr & Mrs A & others
The decision of Dame Butler-Sloss in the case of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust v Mr & Mrs A & Others1 has already achieved notoriety. The disturbing facts have received widespread media coverage and fuelled further legal and political debate surrounding the “reproductive revolution”.2 This short paper assesses the context and potential implications of the recent decision and, in particular, the nature and meaning of parenthood and the family.
Two couples, referred to Mr and Mrs A and Mr and Mrs B, were attending the assisted conception unit at Leeds General Infirmary to receive infertility treatment. Both couples understood that they were participating in a technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a technique which would use the eggs of the wife and the sperm of the husband in each case. Mrs A had consented to her eggs being mixed with her husband’s sperm to create an embryo which would then be implanted in her, hopefully resulting in pregnancy. Mr A had consented to his wife’s treatment. Mr and Mrs B gave their consent to similar IVF procedures, although Mr B had expressly refused to consent to his sperm being used in treating others.
Following a mix up at the unit, which Butler-Sloss referred to as “a ‘mistake’ … despite its inadequacy as a description of what occurred”, Mr B’s sperm was injected into Mrs A’s eggs. She became pregnant and later gave birth to healthy twins. The mistake became apparent only on Mrs A’s delivery of twins of mixed race; Mr and Mrs A are both white, Mr and Mrs B both black. DNA testing subsequently established that Mr B was the biological father of the children. He has had no subsequent contact with them and …