A woman who conceived a baby with a stranger's sperm in a fertility treatment mix-up has suffered a loss of "genetic affinity" and is entitled to damages worth nearly a third of the cost for bringing up the child.
That was the decision of the Court of Appeal, released yesterday, in a long-running case between the couple and Thomson Fertility Centre's parent company, Thomson Medical, and two embryologists.
In 2010, the woman and her husband went to the centre for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). A stranger's sperm, instead of her husband's, was used to fertilise her eggs. The mistake resulted in her giving birth to a baby girl.
In 2012, the woman sued for damages, including for the upkeep of the child, known as Baby P in court proceedings. In 2015, the High Court disallowed the claim, citing policy considerations which view the birth of a healthy child as a blessing.
She appealed and the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's decision on the issue of upkeep costs, ruling it would be against public policy.
"The law views the responsibilities of parenthood as obligations of a legal and moral character which arise in relation to the birth of new life; these obligations are incapable of valuation as 'loss' in any meaningful sense and cannot be the subject of a claim for damages," the court explained.
But the court also decided that the woman has suffered a loss of "genetic affinity".
"The ordinary human experience is that parents and children are bound by ties of blood, and this fact of biological experience - heredity - carries deep socio-cultural significance...
"And when... a person has been denied this experience due to the negligence of others, then she has lost something of profound significance and has suffered a serious wrong.
"This loss of 'affinity' can also result in social stigma and embarrassment arising out of the misperceptions of others, as was the case here."
As for how much the woman can claim, the court considered that it should be set at 30 per cent of the financial costs of raising Baby P, with the precise quantum to be determined by the High Court. The Court of Appeal said it would be preferable for the parties to arrive at an amicable settlement so closure might be achieved.
This article by The Straits Times was published in The New Paper, a free newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.