Evans v. the United Kingdom

European Court of Human Rights
10 April 2007


The applicant, Ms Evans, together with her partner at that time, Mr J., extracted and fertilized her eggs, as she had tumor in her ovaries and they had to be removed. They both signed a form consenting to the in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment which stated that it would be possible for either to withdraw his or her consent at any time before the embryos were implanted in Ms Evans' uterus. Half a year later the relationship broke down and Mr J wrote to the clinic that the embryos should be destroyed. Ms Evans initiated court proceedings as she wished to preserve the embryos, but without any success.


Ms Evans claimed that the provisions of the law, which permitted Mr J. to withdraw his consent after the fertilisation of her eggs with his sperm, violated her right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the Convention.

Court's ruling

The Court emphasized that the right to private life encompasses the right to respect for both the decisions to become and not to become a parent. In Court's view, also the applicant’s wish to keep the particular fertilised eggs and use them to give a life to a child who is genetically related to her (which would otherwise be impossible) falls within the scope of private life. 

The Court based it's judgement on several findings:

The use of IVF treatment gives rise to sensitive moral and ethical issues against a background of fast-moving medical and scientific developments, therefore the state authorities are at better position to make decisions acceptable to the society in this regard.

There is no consensus within the European states regarding the regulation of IVF or as to the stage in the treatment when the gamete providers’ consent becomes irrevocable.

The rules of the law were stated clearly. Therefore Ms Evans, at the time of her decision to undergo IVF, knew all the consequences of that decision, including, that Mr J. would be free to withdraw consent to implantation at any time.

Because of these findings, the Court did not consider that Ms Evans' right to respect for the decision to become a parent should be accorded greater weight than Mr J.’s right to respect for his decision not to have a genetically related child with her. Accordingly,  there was no violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

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Last updated 08/11/2023