Thomson sperm mix-up case: Mum can sue for expenses of raising daughter

But judge says emotional well-being of child at stake

A woman who was impregnated with another man's sperm instead of her husband's by mistake at a fertility clinic is entitled to sue for the expenses of raising the child she conceived, the High Court has ruled.

Justice Choo Han Teck overturned an earlier decision rejecting her bid. However, he concluded his written judgment by cautioning her that pursuing this claim was against the emotional well-being of the child, named Baby P in the lawsuit.

"What I now say may not be a principle in law, but I believe that it is a treasured value in humanity, and that is that no parent would want her child to grow up thinking that she (the child) was a mistake," said the judge.

Justice Choo said if the woman succeeded in her claim, every cent spent on the child's upbringing will remind her that it was money from a compensation for a mistake. "Baby P should not ever have to grow up thinking that her very existence was a mistake," he said.

The woman is suing Thomson Fertility Centre, its owner Thomson Medical and two embryologists, alleging negligence and breach of contract.

In October 2010, she gave birth to the baby conceived through in-vitro fertilisation, whereby her harvested eggs were fertilised with sperm in a laboratory before being put back into her womb. By mistake, her eggs were fertilised with another man's sperm instead of her husband's.

The 38-year-old Singaporean is believed to be seeking more than $1 million for pain and suffering, medical costs, loss of income, upkeep of the child and provisional damages arising from any medical condition attributable to the genes of the sperm donor.

The actual trial has yet to start, but the defendants wanted the court to strike out two items - the child's upkeep and the provisional damages - from the suit.

The defendants' lawyers argued that the upkeep claim goes against public policy, citing an English precedent which held that parents of a healthy unwanted baby cannot claim for the expenses of bringing up the child.

In October last year, an assistant registrar agreed with the defendants' lawyers and struck out these portions of the claims from the suit. The woman appealed on the upkeep claim.

In a judgment published yesterday, Justice Choo noted that the current case was different from the English case, as Baby P was not an unwanted birth in the sense that the mother did not want a baby at all; the woman in this case just wanted a baby conceived with her husband's sperm.

He said the issue should proceed to trial for the judge to decide whether she should be awarded her claim for upkeep.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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