Today marks the 20 year anniversary of a landmark Court of Appeal ruling which allowed widow, Diane Blood, to use her dead husband’s sperm in order to conceive.
Medical advancements had left the law lagging behind in areas but this was the first case to make a ruling on consent to store sperm.
Diane Blood’s husband, Stephen Blood sadly caught meningitis and fell into a coma just two months after they had started trying for a baby together.
This left Diane with a dilemma because The 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act banned her from using her husband’s sperm without his consent. Stephen had fallen into the coma before he was able to give written consent for his sperm to be used.
The couple discussed posthumous conception in their family home in Worksop after reading a magazine article about a widow who expressed her desire to have a child using her dead husband's frozen sperm.
Doctors mechanically extracted sperm from Stephen whilst he was lying in a coma at her request. This provoked a backlash from some sectors of the public, and she was branded “cold” or “strange” by a number of people.
Her initial requests to posthumously conceive using the frozen sperm were refused by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority HFEA. Given the fact that Stephen had not left written permission for his sperm to be stored as the reason she could not conceive and questioning her reasons for wanting a child with her dead husband.
With support from her parents and parents-in-law, Diane appealed the decision in court and won. She now has two sons: Liam aged 18 and Joel aged 14.
Despite the ruling in this case, the law currently forbids a man’s sperm to be stored without permission. So if the same thing were to happen in 2017 it would not be allowed.
Children law, often referred to as child custody, is a complex area of law that is changing with the increase of non-traditional families in the UK.
Hannah Cornish is a family lawyer at slater and Gordon in Watford. She is an expert in children law.