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Man can't deny paternity due to fertilized egg being used without consent: Japan court

The sign of a Japanese court is seen. (Getty)

OSAKA -- A lawsuit by a man who sought confirmation he was not the father of a girl, arguing his former wife gave birth to using the couple's fertilized egg without his consent, was rejected by the Osaka Family Court on Nov. 28.

"It cannot be deemed that there was consent, but the legal parent-child relationship cannot be denied," Presiding Judge Chizuko Matsui said as she handed down the ruling. The man, who is in his 40s, is poised to appeal the ruling.

The point of contention during the trial was whether Article 772 of the Civil Code provision that "a child conceived by a wife during marriage shall be presumed to be a child of her husband" applies to children born through reproductive medicine.

According to the ruling, the man got married in 2010. The couple began to undergo fertility treatment in 2013, and the plaintiff donated his sperm to his wife in 2014. However, their relations subsequently worsened and they began to live separately.

The man's wife underwent a transplant with the couple's fertilized egg that had been cryogenically stored at a clinic after submitting a letter of consent signed in the name of the couple to the institution. The wife gave birth to her daughter the following year, before the couple divorced in 2018.

In the trial, the plaintiff claimed that he never agreed to the transplantation, while admitting that he donated his sperm, and accused his former wife of forging the letter of consent.

In the ruling, the Osaka Family Court said that whether the man consented to the transplantation was merely a family matter, and cannot be grounds for exempting application of the Civil Code clause.

"As long as there is no law providing for parent-child relationships regarding children born through reproductive medicine, such relationships should be dealt with in the same way as those born through natural reproduction," the ruling said.

Lawyer Yoko Wakamatsu, who served as a legal representative for the plaintiff, criticized the ruling. "The court should have shown the criteria for consent regarding reproductive medicine, but failed to fulfill this role," she said.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Muramatsu, Osaka City News Department)

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