EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Press release issued by the Registrar
EVANS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM
The European Court of Human Rights is holding a Grand Chamber hearing today 22 November 2006 at 9 a.m., in the case of Evans v. the United Kingdom (application no. 6339/05).
The applicant, Natallie Evans, is a 35-year-old British national who lives in Wiltshire (United Kingdom).
Summary of the facts
On 12 July Ms Evans and her partner J started fertility treatment at the Bath Assisted Conception Clinic. On 10 October 2000, during an appointment at the clinic, Ms Evans was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous condition of her ovaries and was offered one cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment prior to the surgical removal of her ovaries. During the consultation held that day with medical staff, Ms Evans and her partner J were informed that they would each need to sign a form consenting to the treatment and that, in accordance with the provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (“the 1990 Act”), it would be possible for either of them to withdraw his or her consent at any time before the embryos were implanted in the applicant’s uterus.
Ms Evans considered whether she should explore other means of having her remaining eggs fertilised, to guard against the possibility of her relationship with J ending. J reassured her that that would not happen.
On 12 November 2001 the couple attended the clinic for treatment, resulting in the creation of six embryos which were placed in storage and, on 26 November 2001, Ms Evans underwent an operation to remove her ovaries. She was told she would need to wait for two years before the implantation of the embryos in her uterus.
In May 2002 the relationship between the applicant and J ended and subsequently, in accordance with the 1990 Act, he withdrew his consent to the continued storage of the embryos or use of them by the applicant.
The applicant brought proceedings before the High Court seeking, among other things, an injunction to require J. to restore his consent. Her claim was refused on 1 October 2003, J having been found to have acted in good faith, as he had embarked on the treatment on the basis that his relationship with Ms Evans would continue. On 1 October 2004, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s judgment. Leave to appeal was refused.
On 26 January 2005 the clinic informed the applicant that it was under a legal obligation to destroy the embryos, and intended to do so on 23 February 2005.
On 27 February 2005 the European Court of Human Rights, to whom the applicant had applied, requested, under Rule 39 (interim measures) of the Rules of Court, that the United Kingdom Government take appropriate measures to prevent the embryos being destroyed by the clinic before the Court had been able to examine the case. The embryos were not destroyed.
The applicant, for whom the embryos represent her only chance of bearing a child to which she is genetically related, has undergone successful treatment for her pre-cancerous condition and is medically fit to continue with implantation of the embryos. It was understood that the Bath clinic was willing to treat her, subject to J’s consent.
The applicant complains that requiring the father’s consent for the continued storage and implantation of the fertilised eggs is in breach of her rights under Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights and the rights of the embryos, under Article 2 (right to life) .
The application was lodged with the Court on 11 February 2005. A Chamber hearing on the admissibility and merits took place in public in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 27 September 2005.
In its Chamber judgment of 7 March 2006 (press release No. 125, 2006), the Court held unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 2 concerning the applicant’s embryos; by five votes to two, that there had been no violation of Article 8 concerning the applicant; and, unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 14 concerning the applicant.
The Court also decided to continue to indicate to the United Kingdom Government under Rule 39 that it take appropriate measures to ensure the preservation of the applicant’s embryos until the Court’s judgment became final or pending any further order.
The case was referred to the Grand Chamber at the applicant’s request.
Composition of the Court
The case will be heard by the Grand Chamber composed as follows:
Rozakis (Greek), President,
Jean-Paul Costa (French),
Nicolas Bratza (British),
Boštjan M. Zupančič (Slovenian),
Peer Lorenzen (Danish),
Riza Türmen (Turkish)
Volodymyr Butkevych (Ukrainian),
Nina Vajić (Croatian),
Margarita Tsatsa-Nikolovska (citizen of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”),
András Baka (Hungarian),
Anatoli Kovler (Russian),
Vladimiro Zagrebelsky (Italian),
Antonella Mularoni (San Marinese),
Dean Spielmann (Luxemburger),
David Thór Björgvinsson (Icelandic),
Ineta Ziemele (Latvian), judges,
Egbert Myjer (Dutch),
Mark Villiger (Swiss),
Berro-Lefèvre (Monegasque), substitute
and also Erik Fribergh, Registrar.
Representatives of the parties
Government: Helen Mulvein, Agent,
Philip Sales, Jason Coppel, Counsel,
Karen Arnold, Gwen Turner, Advisers;
Applicant: Muiris Lyons, Solicitor,
Robin Tolson, Counsel,
Susan Freeborn, Anita Murphy, Advisers.
After the hearing the Court will begin its deliberations, which are held in private. Judgment will be delivered at a later date.
Hellyer (telephone: 00 33 (0)3 90 21 42 15)
Stéphanie Klein (telephone: 00 33 (0)3 88 41 21 54)
Beverley Jacobs (telephone: 00 33 (0)3 90 21 54 21)
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.