Widower, 38, in High Court legal battle to use embryo he created during IVF with wife

An investment manager is fighting for the right to have a baby using the last remaining embryo he created with his late wife, after they spent a years desperately trying to have children. 

Widower Ted Jennings, 38, of Highbury, north London, used his sperm to create multiple embryos with Fern-Marie Choya during several rounds of IVF treatments between 2013 and 2018. 

He has now asked Mrs Justice Theis at the High Court to rule that it would be lawful for him to place the last embryo – which was created in 2018 and has been stored –  ‘in treatment with a surrogate mother’.

But lawyers representing the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said Mr Jennings’ application should be dismissed.

They argued that it would not be lawful to use the embryo because Mr Jennings’ accountant wife, who died in 2019, had not provided written consent.

Ms Choya died aged 40 from complications with pregnancy following a uterine rupture – a rare occurrence which sees a mother’s uterus tear, causing her baby to slip into her abdomen. 

The judge considered Mr Jennings’ application at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London on Thursday and is expected to deliver a written ruling in the near future.

Widower Ted Jennings (pictured), 38, of Highbury, north London, used his sperm to create multiple embryos with his late wife Fern-Marie Choya, following several rounds of IVF treatments between 2013 and 2018.

Mr Jennings has now asked Mrs Justice Theis to rule that it would be lawful for him to use the last embryo - which was created in 2018 and has been stored - 'in treatment with a surrogate mother'. (Pictured: Fern Marie Choya)

Mr Jennings has now asked Mrs Justice Theis to rule that it would be lawful for him to use the last embryo – which was created in 2018 and has been stored – ‘in treatment with a surrogate mother’. (Pictured: Fern Marie Choya)

IVF can cost upwards of £5,000 per cycle and has low chances of success

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is one of several techniques available to help people with fertility problems have a baby.

During IVF, an egg is removed from the woman’s ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory.

The fertilised egg, called an embryo, is then returned to the woman’s womb to grow and develop.

It can be carried out using your eggs and your partner’s sperm, or eggs and sperm from donors.

The success rate of IVF depends on the age of the woman having treatment, as well as the cause of the infertility (if it’s known).

 In 2019, the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was: 32% for women under 35; 25% for women aged 35 to 37; 19% for women aged 38 to 39; 11% for women aged 40 to 42; 5% for women aged 43 to 44 and 4% for women aged over 44.

Younger women are more likely to have a successful pregnancy. 

IVF isn’t usually recommended for women over the age of 42 because the chances of a successful pregnancy are thought to be too low.

If you’re not eligible for NHS treatment or you decide to pay for IVF, you can have treatment at a private clinic.

The cost of private treatment can vary, but 1 cycle of IVF can cost up to £5,000 or more. 

There may be additional costs for medicines, consultations and tests.

Source: NHS

Jenni Richards QC, who led Mr Jennings’ legal team, told the judge that Mr Jennings and Ms Choya, who both moved to Britain from Trinidad, had married in 2009.

She said they had struggled to conceive naturally and underwent three cycles of IVF treatment in 2013 and 2014 without success.

Ms Choya had conceived naturally in 2015 and 2016 but both pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

The couple had undergone further IVF cycles, in 2017 and 2018, and re-mortgaged their home in order to afford private treatment.

Ms Richards said a positive pregnancy had been confirmed in late 2018.

She said Ms Choya had developed complications with her pregnancy at 18 weeks, which resulted in a uterine rupture, and died in February 2019.

Ms Richards said one embryo, the subject of the application, remained in storage.

She said the ‘issue’ related to a legal ‘requirement’ that consent ‘be recorded in writing and signed by the person giving it’.

In a written case outline she added: ‘… the evidence is that Ms Choya would have wanted Mr Jennings to be able to use their partner-created embryo in treatment with a surrogate in the event of her death.

‘In all the circumstances, it can, and should, be inferred that Ms Choya would have provided written consent to Mr Jennings being able to use their partner-created embryo in treatment with a surrogate in the event of her death had she been given the opportunity to do so.’

Ms Richards added: ‘… Ms Choya had no opportunity, through no fault of her own, to provide that consent in writing.’

She said preventing Mr Jennings using the embryo would be a ‘significant interference’ with his human right to respect for private and family life and prevent him from fulfilling the couple’s wish to have a child.

Kate Gallafent QC, who led the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s legal team, argued that without written consent it would not be lawful to use the embryo.

She said the authority was sympathetic and told the judge that its ‘sole interest’ was to ‘promote compliance’ with a ‘statutory scheme’.

Mrs Justice Theis said she aimed to deliver a written ruling in the near future. (Pictured: High Court in London)

Mrs Justice Theis said she aimed to deliver a written ruling in the near future. (Pictured: High Court in London) 

‘Mr Jennings seeks a declaration from the court that it is lawful to use an embryo created using his gametes and those of his late wife Ms Choya in the treatment of a surrogate,’ she told the judge in a written case outline.

‘However, it is common ground between the parties that Ms Choya did not provide written consent to the embryo being used by Mr Jennings in treatment with a surrogate in the event of her death.’

She said the authority’s ‘primary submission’ was that: ‘In the absence of such written consent, it is not lawful to use the embryo in treatment with a surrogate.’

Ms Gallafent said the requirement of written consent was an ‘express statutory condition’ set out in the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act and ‘central to the legislative regime’.

Mrs Justice Theis said she aimed to deliver a written ruling in the near future.