Italian told she can use dead husband’s sperm

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Italy's Law 40, passed in 2004, bans the freezing of embryos. IVF photo: Shutterstock
12:21 CET+01:00
A 50-year-old woman has won a legal battle to use sperm taken from her dead husband for IVF in a landmark ruling by an Italian court.

The sperm was frozen in 1996, eight years before Italy’s controversial Law 40, banning the procedure, was passed.

The Bologna court upheld an appeal from the 50-year old woman, from Ferrara, which had been rejected by a lower court and ordered the city’s Sant’Orsola to immediately allow her to begin IVF, Rai News reported.

The couple turned to fertility treatment early in their marriage, and after failing to conceive in the first attempt, decided to freeze eight embryos.

They never tried again due to the husband’s poor health but continued to give their consent each year for the embryos to be preserved until 2010, a year before his death.

An attempt by the woman to use the embryos after his death was turned down by the hospital on the grounds that “both partners are not alive” and in accordance with Law 40.

A legal battle ensued, with the court on Monday finally ruling that even though her husband’s last declaration in 2010 for the embryos to be preserved could not be considered “valid consent” for them to be used after his death, it did “show a desire for the embryos not to be abandoned”.

The court also considered the woman’s age and the time that might be wasted through further civil proceedings.

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Before Law 40, which also banned embryo testing for research, was introduced, Italy had a liberal approach to fertility treatment.

But the law, supported by Catholic politicians from across the political spectrum, was brought in to clamp down on a situation that had given the country a reputation for being the “Wild West” of reproduction due to a flourishing market for embryo tourism and interest in human cloning.

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