Widow wins High Court battle to preserve late husband’s sperm

A widow has won a High Court battle to preserve her late husband's sperm from being destroyed, in a landmark ruling that may affect similar fertility cases being fought in the UK.

Beth Warren's husband Warren Brewer died from a brain tumour two years ago, just six weeks after the Birmingham-based couple got married.

The 32-year-old had his sperm frozen before undergoing radiotherapy treatment for cancer and he signed consent forms that allowed his wife to use the samples in the event of his death.

Warren, who changed her surname in tribute to her husband, was told that the sperm could not be stored beyond April 2015. The 28-year-old widow challenged the time limit put in place by UK fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

She argued that it went against common sense to impose a limit, since she would have had to have started IVF treatment immediately, in order to have a child before the samples were destroyed.

Warren Brewer and Beth Warren

"I am still heartbroken from losing my husband. All I am asking for is more time," Beth, a physiotherapist, told the Birmingham Mail.

"At the moment I don’t feel emotionally ready to start the family we had planned, emotionally ready to go through the invasive process of IVF," she said.

"I know that posthumous conception is an enormous decision and I need more time to work out whether this is the right decision for me and the potential children."

"We thought we'd done everything that we possibly could," she added.

A lawyer for HFEA said that Warren's husband, a ski instructor, had not given his consent for his sperm to be preserved beyond April 2015. But her lawyer argued that the fertility regulator was taking an "excessively linguistic and technical approach" to the case.

"I think the judge understood that my husband had signed every form he had to. It's all about whether she can find a lawful way to allow it," Warren had earlier said.

Beth outside the High Court

Mrs Justice Hogg, presiding judge for the case at London's High Court, today ruled in favour of Warren, who gasped when the decision was announced.

"I am elated," she said. "Every good word in the dictionary. I hadn't dared to let myself believe it would happen."

The law allows sperm and eggs to be stored for up to 55 years, if consent is renewed every decade.

Words: Anna Brech, Photos: Rex Features

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