Attorney in UH fertility clinic lawsuit argues life begins at conception

CLEVELAND-- A Cleveland law firm representing three families in cases against University Hospitals filed a motion Friday in Cuyahoga County asking the court to decide if life begins at conception and therefore makes an embryo a "person."

The incident happened at UH Ahuja Medical Center on March 4 when the temperature of the tissue storage bank unexpectedly fluctuated. It's likely that the 4,000 eggs and embryos affected are no longer viable.

“If these embryos declared to be lives then these lives can, under our wrongful death statute, present evidence as to what the value of their lives would have been had they survived,” said Bruce Taubman with Taubman Law.

Taubman Law filed a complaint for declaratory judgement, which says the families impacted by the UH fertility center disaster believe life begins at conception and that their embryos have the same legal status as a "person."

“It’s difficult to go on and have people reference it as tissue or cells,” said Wendy Penniman, who had three embryos destroyed in the storage tank malfunction.

The complaint goes on to say that University Hospitals considers the embryos as the property of the patients while the patients treat the embryos as a person.

“They have the same exact number of chromosomes as you and I sitting here, and so there’s no reason why they should be looked at any different than that. The only difference is that they are in a different stage of development,” Penniman said.

Taubman told FOX 8 the determination of the court will have an impact on many of the families who have filed lawsuits against UH. He said he believes the question could go to the Ohio Supreme Court.

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