A Chinese widow named Xiaoqin fought back against a hospital’s strict IVF rules, and to her joy, the courts recently found in her favour
This landmark story marks a rare case in which a Chinese court has departed from rigid regulations that prevent single women from undergoing fertility treatments.
A court in Wuxi, located in Eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, ordered a local hospital to complete the embryo transfer for Xiaoqin, whose husband died in an accident in the middle of their fertility treatments.
Xiaoqin and her husband started IVF at their local fertility hospital in May of 2017, successfully undergoing the egg retrieval process. This resulted in four healthy embryos that were then frozen for future implantation, but Xiaoqin needed to be immediately hospitalized after the retrieval, suffering from ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHHS).
OHSS is a relatively common side effect of the hormone medications used to trigger the development of eggs
It causes the ovaries to swell and is very painful, which required Xiaoqin to recover before having the embryos implanted in her uterus. The hospital agreed to preserve their frozen embryos, and the couple signed an informal consent form that allowed the hospital to freeze, thaw, and then transfer the embryos in the future.
They planned to pick up where they left off in the process when her health improved, but Xiaoqin’s husband passed away in a tragic accident in July 2019. In order to preserve her husband’s bloodline, she decided to continue with her embryo transfer on her own.
She soon faced a wall of restrictions, with the hospital rejecting her request to move forward with her treatment
Hospital officials claimed that China’s strict assisted reproductive technology regulation prevented them from implanting the embryos into her womb. Even though her husband had provided his consent and signed the informal agreement, they argued that his death invalidated his consent.
China also has a strict policy that prevents any single woman from undergoing fertility treatments on her own. Gallingly, the hospital deemed recently widowed Xiaoqin as ‘single,’ dashing her hopes to become a mother to a child genetically linked to her late husband. She wasn’t daunted – she took the case to court.
Last Tuesday, she was vindicated as the Wuxi City Liangxi District People’s Court ruled in her favour
They deemed that the contract the couple signed with the hospital remains valid and that the procedure is consistent with her husband’s clearly communicated wishes to have a child.
However, don’t be too quick to ascribe this to a sea change in China’s restrictive policies that prevent single women from becoming mothers with assisted reproductive technology. Rather than judge Xiaoqin as a typical single woman, they ruled that she ‘differs from other single women,’ as a widow. As a result, her treatments do not “violate the principle of public welfare or China’s laws and regulations on population and family planning.”
While China has allowed assisted reproductive technologies since 2012, many argue that their ban on single people is discriminatory and archaic. What do you think? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org