Oregon State Appeals Court Finds Frozen Embryos ”Personal Property” in Divorce Proceeding
By Anna Lamut – Edited by Stephanie Weiner
Dahl v. Angle
Or. Ct. App., October 8, 2008, A133697
The Court of Appeals of the State of Oregon upheld the decision of the trial court to enforce a contract made between a now-divorced husband and wife regarding six frozen embryos resulting from the couple’s attempt to conceive in vitro. The contract provided that, in the event of a disagreement, the wife would have the right to decide what would happen to the embryos. Necessary to the Court of Appeals’ decision was a finding that the contractual right to determine the fate of frozen embryos is personal property.
While married, the parties had unsuccessfully tried to conceive a child via in vitro fertilization, a process that left six frozen embryos at the Oregon Health and Science University (“OHSU”). The parties executed an “Embryology Laboratory Specimen Storage Agreement” at the time that they underwent the procedure, which gave the wife, Dr. Laura Dahl, the “sole and exclusive right” to instruct OHSU to transfer or dispose of the embryos in the event that the parties were not able to agree. Dr. Dahl chose to have the embryos destroyed, while her ex-husband, Dr. Darrell Angle, denied having initialed or read the agreement. He claimed that “embryos are life” and did not want the embryos destroyed because “there’s no pain greater than having participated in the demise of your own child.”
Andy Dworkin of the Oregonian provides commentary.