A British woman left infertile by cancer treatment cannot use frozen embryos to have a baby without permission from her former fiancé who provided the sperm, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday.
The panel of 17 European judges, known as the Grand Chamber, confirmed an earlier ruling by a lower chamber upholding British law. The decision was released in Strasbourg, France.
British law says both parents must give their permission before an embryo created through in-vitro fertilization can be implanted in a woman's womb.
Natalie Evans, 35, filed the case claiming that law breached her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Evans's former fiancé, Howard Johnston, had signed consent forms in 2001 to allow the embryos to be used, but withdrew hispermission after their relationship ended.
"The key thing for me was just to be able to decide when and if I start a family," Johnston told reporters after last year's lower chamber ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
The judges said on Tuesday that the British law did not violate the convention.
They upheld the earlier lower chamber ruling that said it was up to national law to define when the right to life began. Under British law an embryo does not have independent rights or interests.
The judges expressed "great sympathy" for Evans in their ruling, but said her desire to become a parent should not be accorded greater weight than her former partner's right not to have a genetically related child with her.
Evans was left infertile after receiving treatment for cancer, but in 2001, before her ovaries were removed, six of her eggs were fertilized by Johnston's sperm through in vitro fertilization.
Tuesday's verdict is final and cannot be appealed, meaning the frozen embryos will have to be destroyed.