Art. 8, embryo donation and scientific research: Parrillo v Italy

The issue

Italian Law no. 40/2004 of 19 February 2004, which makes experiments on human embryos punishable by between two and six years’ imprisonment, prohibited Ms Parrillo from donating to scientific research embryos obtained from in vitro fertilisation that were not to be implanted in her: instead, she was obliged to keep them in a state of cryopreservation until their death. Her requests for the release of her embryos so that she could donate them for research were therefore refused.

She submitted that the embryos had been obtained before Law no. 40/2004 had come into force and, therefore, that it had been entirely legal for her to have them preserved rather than proceeding with immediate implantation. She complained that the ban on her donating them for research violated Article 1 of Protocol No 1 ECHR (protection of property) and Article 8 (private and family life). On 28 January 2014 the Chamber to which the case had been assigned relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber.

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