Baby born in China four years after parents’ death

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A baby has been born four years after its parents died in a car accident, Chinese media reports this week. The couple had frozen several embryos in the hope of having a child through IVF. The baby was born to a surrogate from Laos on December 9, after years of battles between the court and his grandparents over the frozen embryos.

According to the Beijing News, husband and wife Shen Jie and Liu Xi decided to try in vitro fertilization but died in a car crash in March 2013, just five days before the scheduled transplant. The late couple’s parents filed two lawsuits to use the embryos, which were stored at a hospital in Nanjing, in eastern China.

There was no legal precedent about who has custody of frozen embryos if the parents die. The first lawsuit was unsuccessful, with the court deeming that fertilized embryos “cannot be transferred or inherited” (Beijing News), but the second one granted the families custody. Surrogacy is illegal in China so the future grandparents drove to Laos to find a surrogate mother.

The case points out the complex juridical and ethical questions raised by advances in medicine. China is not the only country which has had to rule on such issues: Australia faced a similar case in 1983 when a couple who had left frozen embryos at a clinic in Melbourne died in a plane crash, prompting a dispute over whether the eggs were heirs.

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