Woman wins custody of 12 embryos

Woman wins custody of 12 embryos

Here's a custody battle with a difference -- the children were never born, Read about how a woman won custody of her 12 embryos and find out more about IVF treatment in Singapore.


A husband and wife went to court not only to settle custody of their young daughter – there were also 12 frozen embryos, conceived when the couple were still married to each other. What made Ms Chen (not her real name) seek custody of the 12 embryos?

Unsuccessful IVF treatments 

It seems that plans to expand their family did not work out for Ms Chen and her husband. After having their daughter (now aged ten) the couple wanted to have more children. 

Ms Chen started the preparations for IVF treatment in 2007, after a long talk with her husband. The procedures included more than 250 hormonal injections – some of which she administered herself twice a day. 

The first round of treatment was not a success because she did not produce enough eggs.

But to her joy in May 2007, she was informed that the second attempt had resulted in 19 embryos.

Husband’s infidelity after successful insemination

During the second round of IVF treatment, Ms Chen discovered that her husband was having an affair, “When confronted, he said he wanted to call it quits.

I was too shocked for words. He packed up and left the home,” Ms Chen told the court. “I had only just come back from the insemination process a few days ago and could have become pregnant, but he didn’t seem to care. He just wanted to leave.”

Long legal battle for custody of embryos

Relief came for Ms Chen when the court case over maintenance was finally settled. Ms Chen and her husband were given joint custody of their daughter, with care and control to Ms Chen.

 In a landmark decision, the court also granted her the power to decide on the future of the embryos, without involving her ex-husband. It also said that should she decide to “dispose of the embryos and hold religious services with the disposal”, he could not interfere with her decision.

Peace of mind at last

In January 2012 after the divorce, Ms Chen said she had a chance to consider what to do with  the embryos.

After discussing the matter with her church leaders, she decided to lay them to rest. In May 2012, she made her decision and held a private service for the 12 embryos. Only her parents and her sister were allowed to be in attendance. When asked to comment on her decision, Ms Chen expressed the following view:

“To some, they may be bits of cells but each embryo was a child to me and they deserve a proper send-off. What I decided to do with my embryos would be final and it would be something I had to live with for the rest of my life. I had to be sure there would be no regrets,” she said.

IVF treatment in Singapore

As more couples now seem to be delaying in having children they may find it hard or unable to conceive and turn to other means. Here are the important facts to know about IVF treatment:

Treatment involves combining the eggs and sperms outside the mother’s  body, leading to fertilisation in the laboratory. After fertilisation, the embryos are allowed to develop for a short time before being implanted into the mother’s uterine lining.

The basic steps in IVF treatment  are:

1. Ovarian stimulation. Specialists use medication or “fertility drugs”  to stimulate multiple eggs to grow in the ovaries.
2. Egg retrieval
3. Fertilisation and embryo culture
4. Embryo transfer

Where to seek treatment

Some of the medical institutions that offer IVF consultation and treatment include:

1. KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
KKIVF Centre
100 Bukit Timah Road Singapore 229899

Central Appointments:
Tel : +65 6294 4050
International Enquiries, please contact:
Tel : +65 6394 8888
Email : [email protected]

2. Singapore General Hospital
Centre for Assisted Reproduction (CARE)
Outram Road, Singapore 169608

Appointments Hotline:
Tel : +65 6321 4377
International Enquiries, please contact:
Tel : +65 6326 5656
Email : [email protected]

Source: Asia One

Also read: Egg freezing for women over 40

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Written by

Felicia Chin

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