201710.17

Children Are a Blessing, Not a Financial Liability – High Court Ruling

The law views the birth of a healthy child as a blessing, not a financial burden. In one case in which that principle was applied, a man who became a father to a baby girl after his ex-girlfriend forged his signature on a fertility clinic consent form was refused compensation on public policy grounds.

Before their relationship ended in acrimony, the couple had a son together following IVF treatment at the clinic. A number of embryos had been frozen at that time and the mother subsequently returned to the clinic alone. Desperate to have another child, she resorted to dishonest methods. She forged her ex-partner’s signature and was implanted with a frozen embryo, later giving birth to a little girl. She did not inform him of her pregnancy until it was well advanced.

The father, who accepted parental responsibility for the child, sued the clinic in a bid to recover the substantial costs of bringing up his daughter to adulthood. The High Court found that, although the clinic had not been negligent in accepting the forged signature as genuine, it had breached the strict contractual duty that it owed the father to ensure that he had given his written consent to the procedure.

The Court noted that the father had been morally vindicated by its decision. In dismissing his claim, however, it cited the long-established principle of law that parenthood is a benefit and that it is morally unacceptable to regard a healthy child as a financial liability. Recognising the importance of the case, the Court granted the father permission to challenge its decision before the Court of Appeal.

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