Rethinking Canadian Legal Responses to Frozen Embryo Disputes

(2014) 29:1 Canadian Journal of Family Law 55

62 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2015

See all articles by Stefanie Carsley

Stefanie Carsley

McGill University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2014


This article examines and critiques Canadian legal responses to disputes over frozen in vitro embryos. It argues that current laws that provide spouses or partners with joint control over the use and disposition of embryos created from their genetic materials and that mandate the creation of agreements setting out these parties’ intentions in the event of a disagreement or divorce overlook the experiences of women who undergo in vitro fertilization treatment. It also maintains that these laws do not accord with how Canadian law and public policy has responded to similar conflicts between spouses, or to agreements that seek to control or restrict women’s reproductive choices. This article considers how legislatures and courts in other jurisdictions have sought to respond to embryo disposition disputes, but argues that their respective approaches raise similar issues and would pose additional problems within the Canadian context. It ultimately provides recommendations for how Canadian laws might better support the express objectives of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act and Quebec’s Act Respecting Clinical and Research Activities Relating to Assisted Procreation to protect the health and well-being of women, to promote the principle of free and informed consent and to recognize that women are more directly affected than men by the use of assisted reproductive technologies.

Keywords: assisted reproductive technologies; in vitro fertilization; frozen embryos; agreements; contracts; spouses; consent

Suggested Citation

Carsley, Stefanie, Rethinking Canadian Legal Responses to Frozen Embryo Disputes (2014). (2014) 29:1 Canadian Journal of Family Law 55. Available at SSRN:

Stefanie Carsley (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Montréal, Quebec

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