The Chicago Tribune recently reported about a case of frozen embryos. The embryos were awarded to a 42-year-old Chicago woman over the objections of her ex-boyfriend.
In 2009, Karla Dunston, a doctor began dating Jacob Szafranski, a 32-year-old firefighter. A few months into their relationship, Dunston was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to undergo chemotherapy that would ultimately destroy her fertility.
Dunston testified that she asked Szafranski to provide his sperm, so that the two can put embryos into storage before she began her treatment. Szafranski agreed, and neither of them thought about having an agreement drawn up regarding the embryos.
After they broke up in May 2010, Szafranski said he changed his mind about being a father. He sought to have the frozen embryos destroyed.
Judge Sophia H. Hall upheld the parties’ oral agreements. She also weighed each of the parties’ concerns regarding the embryos. The judge added that Dunston’s desire to have a child outweighed Szafranski’s desire to not procreate.
“Karla’s desire to have a biological child in the face of the impossibility of having one without using the embryos outweighs Jacob’s privacy concerns, which are now moot,” the judge said in the ruling, “and his speculative concern that he might not find love with a woman because he unhesitatingly agreed to help give Karla her last opportunity to fulfill her wish to have a biological child.”
An appeal is pending.
Schroeder said lawyers for both parties have agreed that the embryos should not be implanted in Dunston until the appeal is completed. Dunston has previously said she was not seeking any support, financial or otherwise, from Szafranski, but that she only wants to be a mother. Absent an agreement however stating that he was only a sperm donor, I doubt that Szafranski will be able to keep from paying support if the matter ends up in parentage court.
Yet only a few state higher courts have addressed, with mixed results, what to do with frozen embryos once a couple has separated. Legal experts said they would be watching to see how Illinois handles the complex issue.
A Cook County trial court had previously ruled in favor of Dunston but Szafranski appealed, and the higher court sent the case back with a new framework: The dispute should be decided based on contracts and agreements between the two parties rather than just who has more compelling interest in the fate of the embryos.
The case went before the Illinois State Supreme Court, which decided not to hear it in September, sending the issue back to the lower court.