Three Couples File Wrongful Death Lawsuits Over Destroyed Embryos
Three couples are filing a lawsuit in Alabama against an in vitro fertilization clinic after a patient wandered into the embryo room and dropped five embryos on the floor, causing them to be destroyed. The problem for the couples is that state law does not allow a fetus to have standing in a lawsuit. This means that a fetus can never be a plaintiff in a lawsuit. That means that a family can never file a wrongful death lawsuit alleging the death of an embryo. However, the law is complicated by the fact that criminal statutes do allow a fetus to be a “person” for the purpose of criminal prosecutions. So, can these families really file a wrongful death lawsuit against the IVF clinic?
If U.S. precedent on the matter has any influence, then the answer will be ‘no’. However, these lawsuits are larger than just a few families filing claims on behalf of an embryo. If the suit is allowed to move forward before a jury, it could open up the door to allowing lawsuits filed on behalf of fetuses. That could put abortion rights in a very difficult position.
If the plaintiff wins…
If the plaintiff wins, we will begin seeing a host of lawsuits against IVF clinics related to the destruction of embryos. It could also mean that these same clinics are responsible for murder along with the employees whose negligence facilitated the murder. It would further mean that the patient who dropped the embryos is guilty of five murders or homicides. It would mean that the thousands of embryos that are destroyed every day due to lack of viability would have rights under the law. In other words, it would create a major mess for the judicial system, and likely destroy the IVF market. Certainly, IVF clinics would not want to operate in a state that said they were responsible for murder every time an embryo was destroyed.
What the current law says
The current law considers embryos property, not persons. While judges in Alabama have ruled that the embryo is the beginning of “life”, there is no statute or precedent that prevents anyone from ending a life. Before you do backflips of rage, consider that livestock is alive and yet is still considered property. Being alive doesn’t entitled you to rights under U.S. law. Being a person does. So even though Alabama law has statutes that consider embryos “the beginning of life” it falls short of establishing that the embryo has standing in a court of law.
The legal concept of standing simply means the right to sue. A fetus does not have the right to sue in the U.S. court system. While wrongful death lawsuits are filed on behalf of a decedent’s estate, the decedent had standing to sue when they were alive and their estate, which survives them, files the claim. An infant can have an estate, but a fetus cannot. Neither can your dog. A change in this precedent could have far-reaching consequences for families seeking IVF treatments.
Talk to a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, the Miami wrongful death attorneys at Payer & Associates can file a lawsuit on your behalf and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. Call today to learn more.