St. Louis area family settles custody dispute over frozen embryos

embryo.jpgSt. Louis area family Jennifer and William McLaughlin, of Kirkwood, Missouri, have settled the custody battle they were involved in with Edward and Kerry Lambert of California. The McLaughlin’s attorney simply stated that the couples have agreed to resolve this dispute in accordance with the parties’ original agreement, and that all involved hope that the embryos will be raised with their siblings. It is unclear which couple is getting the embryos.

The McLaughlins obtained four frozen embryos from the Lamberts in 2009. The McLaughlins went on to have twins with two of the embryos in January 2010. The Lamberts filed a lawsuit in California, claiming that the McLaughlins breached their agreement by not returning the two unused embryos, because their agreement stated that if they did not use the embryos within a year they must be returned. The Lamberts wanted to give those embryos to another couple. The McLaughlins filed a lawsuit in St. Louis County, alleging that unique circumstances warranted them keeping the embryos. The McLaughlins were not sure at first if they wanted to use the remaining two embryos, but later decided they did want to expand their family and hoped to use those embryos to have more children. The McLaughlins currently have 7 children, two twins and five adopted children.

Both the McLaughlins and the Lamberts believe that frozen embryos are living humans. With more and more couples using fertility treatments and the donation of frozen embryos becoming more common, this type of nontraditional family dispute may become more common. Like the Lamberts, some couples who believe that embryos are living humans and have undergone in vitro fertilization procedures donate the remaining embryos to other infertile families, instead of donating them to science or disposing of them. These types of donations are typically created through private agreements.