This week’s events in the matter involving the frozen pre-embryos of Nick Loeb and Sofia Vergara (http://fsfamilylaw.com/articles.php) highlight the common problem that arises when people seek out fertility to start a family, especially people who are unmarried.
Despite the success in forcing Loeb to dismiss his case against Vergara, his latest maneuver of causing another lawsuit in another state and alleging that the forms signed in the clinic were deficient, highlights the conundrum people face when they go to the fertility clinic. No one is thinking of the legal implications that face them when they are considering using IVF procedures. Whether it is storing material for future use, or intending to immediately start forming a family, most people are more worried about the medical procedures involved, the cost of same, and whether they will be successful than whether they are about to create a situation of legal uncertainty for themselves. And while the last thing that people want to do in that situation is incur even more time and expense with counsel, one has to remember that doctors are not lawyers, and consent forms can always be modified.
As the age-old adage goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Certainly, wanting to start a family, or preserve one’s fertility for future use is most always well-intentioned. More than ever it seems people are in relationships that are unconventional and while that is not a bad thing in and of itself, it can often complicate what happens down the road if things don’t work out.
When you go to the fertility clinic, you deal with medical personnel. They know what they are doing and they are qualified to help you. Unlike other areas of medicine, however, this particular area has significant legal consequences that are long-term in nature. Patients need to appreciate that. Doctors need to make it clear that patients are aware of this and that they have done what they need to do to ensure that their intentions are carried out. And while most of the time there is at least fine print on the consent forms saying that the patient was advised of the right to have a lawyer review the forms, in the excitement of getting the process started this fact is often overlooked, or the patient is afraid of rocking the boat or irritating the doctor by wanting to read or modify the forms. Just as people about to get married often think they are on the same page when it comes to how their relationship will work only to find out differently once the marriage takes place, the same thing happens in the area of family formation. While it is no doubt less exciting to be dealing with counsel than waiting to hear if you were able to successfully create embryos, or if your IVF transfer took, the best thing you can do before starting these procedures if you are part of an unmarried couple or intending to be a single parent is to have things documented properly at the outset, and the consent forms reviewed and modified if necessary, to save yourself from possible heartache down the line.