Last chance for Natallie Evans to save her frozen embryos as she takes her case to the European Court of Human Rights

Appeal To European Court Of Human Rights

01.12.2006

On 22nd November 2006 Natallie Evans (35) will once again enter the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to have her appeal heard by the Courts Grand Chamber. Natallie who had six embryos frozen after being treated for ovarian cancer in 2001, is fighting to win the right to use her stored frozen embryos to have a baby, after her ex-partner, Howard Johnston, withdrew his consent.

Natallie's solicitor, Muiris Lyons of national law firm Irwin Mitchell Solicitors said:

This is Natallie's last chance. It is not about her right to be a mother, or about Mr Johnstons right not to be a father. This is about Natallie having the opportunity to use the embryos they created together and which Mr Johnston agreed would be available for Natallie's use.

Natallie is now infertile, however Mr Johnston remains fertile, yet he continues to refuse Natallie the right to use the embryos.

Natallie and her legal team will travel to Strasbourg to attend the hearing where Natallie's pleas will be heard by seventeen Judges in the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR. A ruling is not expected until early 2007. This is Natallie's last chance to have her appeal considered; if she loses this appeal her embryos will be destroyed forever.

Natallie contends that by depriving her of the opportunity to use her stored embryos to have a natural child of her own the UK law, laid down in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFEA) 1990, breaches her human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. In particular Natallie contends that her rights to respect for her private and family life (Article 8) and not to be discriminated against (Article 14) have been breached.

Background

In 2000 Natallie and her then fiance Howard Johnston began fertility treatment at the Bath Assisted Conception Clinic, but in October that year she was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous condition of her ovaries. In November 2001 the couple were treated at the clinic and six embryos created, later that month Natallie had an operation to remove her ovaries. She was told she would have to wait for two years before the implanting the embryos.

In May 2002 unfortunately the relationship ended. Natallie still wished to use the embryos as they represent her last chance of having a natural child of her own. Her former fiance Howard refused to give his permission, which the UK law requires before they can be used. The clinic where the embryos were stored considered they had no choice other then to destroy the embryos.

Natallie applied to the Family Division of the High Court to obtain an order that she be permitted to use the embryos. She argued that Howard had already consented to the creation, storage and use of the embryos and should not be allowed to change his mind.

Natallie was unsuccessful both in the High Court and subsequently in the Court of Appeal. The judges ruled that the HFEA 1990 was clear. Both parties must consent to the use of the embryos - Howard was entitled to withdraw his consent at any time before they were used. He was able to change his mind even if it had such tragic consequences for Natallie.

Natallie petitioned the House of Lords in an effort to overturn the decision of the Court of Appeal but the House of Lords decided they would not hear her case.

On the 14th of February 2005 Natallie applied to the ECtHR asking the court to consider whether the UK law, which then required her six stored embryos to be destroyed, was a breach of her human rights.

The ECtHR in Strasbourg heard Natallie's plea in September 2005. In March 2006 the ECtHR ruled that this was not a breach of Natallie's human rights. Seven Judges heard Natallie's case. Two found in favour of Natallie, and five ruled against her.

Natallie then lodged an appeal. She will make her final plea on 22nd November 2006 in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in front of seventeen Judges, who will then decide the fate of the embryos, announcing their decision in early 2007.