National / Crime & Legal

Nara court dismisses lawsuit over child born using IVF egg without father's consent

Kyodo

A family court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a man who sought to reject a parental relationship with his child because his estranged wife was impregnated without his permission using fertilized eggs stored by a clinic.

The focus of the trial was whether a Civil Code provision saying “a child conceived by a wife during marriage shall be presumed to be a child of her husband” should be applied to the latest case, which has drawn attention as a modern-day issue amid an increase of in vitro fertilizations.

The Nara Family Court judged that based on the Civil Code, the 46-year-old foreign man was in a position to be presumed the father based on the relationship with his now ex-wife at the time of her pregnancy.

In general, the court said the transplantation of fertilized eggs requires the consent of both parents.

The man filed suit with the court in October last year seeking to confirm that he has no father-child relationship with the now 2-year-old girl. But his ex-wife argued during the trial that there are no legal grounds for the man to deny his paternity.

According to the lawsuit and other sources, the couple, who got married in 2004, began fertility treatment from 2009, and their eldest son was born in November 2011 through the transplantation of a fertilized egg. The couple separated in October 2013.

In 2014, the woman underwent another procedure to transplant a fertilized egg, which had been preserved in a frozen state before the couple’s separation. She delivered a baby girl in April 2015 before she and her husband divorced in October 2016.

The man has also filed a lawsuit seeking ¥20 million ($178,000) in compensation from the woman and the clinic involved, claiming mental suffering stemming from the incident.

The clinic said in an earlier statement that it had assumed the transplant had both parents’ approval because the couple did not request the disposal of the eggs.

Many couples in Japan seek reproductive treatment, such as in vitro fertilization, with more people marrying or having children late. There were about 420,000 cases in 2015 and 1 in 20 babies were born with the help of so-called assisted reproduction technologies.

But critics say the country needs to set more rules regarding such births. The Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology calls for medical personnel to seek the consent of the couple for each use of frozen fertilized eggs, but the actual handling of such matters is left up to hospital staff.