Post Mortem ART: Gamete Transfer Refused by ECHR


A mother wished for her deceased son’s gametes to be sent to Israel for a post-mortem surrogacy or ART, since it is allowed in this country. However this request was declared inadmissible by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Dominique Petithory Lanzmann, the widow of the director Claude Lanzmann, filed this request to have her son’s gametes transferred to Israel. Before his death in 2017, while facing the risk of becoming sterile following the chemotherapy to treat his cancer, the 23-year old man chose to have his gametes stored in Paris at the Cochin Hospital (Egg and Sperm Bank Center for Study and Conservation). Mrs Lanzmann argued that she wanted to carry out her son’s desire to be a father. She argued that disallowing access to her son’s gametes constituted an interference in her private family life and her right to become a grandmother.

Both the hospital and the Biomedical Agency refused her request, which had previously been validated by the Administrative Court in 2018.

Upon refusal, the mother decided to file with the State Council who had also dismissed her request on the grounds that the gametes could not be sent to a different country for a procedure considered illegal in the country of origin, (as post-mortem ART is prohibited in France).

The mother then appealed to the ECHR who ratified the French court’s decision: asserting that the son had never given his consent for his mother to have a post-mortem ART to be performed, that this practice is indeed prohibited in France, and that refusing ART to a person who requests it to become a grandmother does not violate the ECHR’s Article 8 which guarantees respect for everyone regardless of “his family, his private life, his home and his correspondence”.

The judges considered that this request is incompatible with the ART current legal frame in France, which is to compensate for a couple’s medically diagnosed infertility.

We must keep in mind that the ban on post mortem ART is maintained in the Bioethics Bill currently under discussion in France.


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