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Assisted Reproduction

Embryo Trial Begins in San Francisco

A divorced Bay Area couple clashed yesterday in San Francisco Superior Court, in a potentially precedent-setting battle over their five frozen embryos. As reported here yesterday, pianist Mimi Lee and her ex-husband, Stephen Findley, visited UCSF’s Center for Reproductive Health and, with the help of in vitro fertilization technology, created and froze five embryos. Now that the couple has separated, Findley wants to dispose of their embryos, in accordance with the contract that the couple signed at UCSF. Lee wants to use the embryos to bear children.

Lee underwent successful chemotherapy treatments after the couple created the embryos. In court yesterday Lee’s attorney, Maxwell Pritt, asserted that, due to those treatments, the frozen embryos represented her last chance to procreate. The opportunity to procreate, Pritt argued, is a cherished Constitutional right, “one of the central liberties guaranteed by our Constitution.” Many prestigious legal scholars, however, construe that right far more narrowly.


On the stand yesterday, Findley described how the couple read and signed a contract at UCSF before undergoing in vitro treatments. In the contract, the couple agreed to destroy their embryos if their relationship ended. Lee should be held to that signed agreement, Findley said. “The very purpose of the documents was to make [our intentions] clear,” he stated.

Lee asserts that the agreement she signed at UCSF should not be seen as a binding contract between herself and her ex-husband. As ABC News’ chief legal analyst Dan Abrams explains, Lee’s arguments are pushing against accepted understandings of the law. The contract “that she signed was very clear on this issue,” notes Abrams, “which makes it still a very difficult argument for her legally.”

Our firm, Vorzimer Masserman, represents UCSF, which maintains that Lee should be legally committed to the couple’s signed agreement.

Lee is expected to testify today. For more on the hearing, check out ABC News’ excellent coverage of the trial.


One comment for “Embryo Trial Begins in San Francisco”

  • Kathy

    There is no way she should be able to keep the embryos. She signed a contract agreeing to destroy the embryos should they divorce and she must be held to her word and legal obligation.

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