Wednesday, 23 Sep 2020

Mother's bid to stop transgender daughter's sperm being destroyed

Mother launches legal bid to stop her transgender daughter’s frozen sperm being destroyed by fertility doctors so she can have a grandchild using egg donor and surrogate

  • Ellie Anderson, of Stirling, was born a boy but identified as a girl while young 
  • Ellie died suddenly in July aged 16 and mother Louise is launching a legal bid
  • Louise wants to stop fertility doctors destroying Ellie’s sperm samples
  • The mother wants to honour Ellie’s wishes posthumously, using an egg donor and a surrogate to produce a grandchild using Ellie’s sperm 

The grieving mother of a transgender teenager is launching a legal bid to stop fertility doctors destroying her child’s frozen sperm.

Louise Anderson, 45, plans to go to the highest court in Scotland after learning that samples saved by her 16-year-old daughter Ellie, who died suddenly in July, could be thrown out in days.

Ellie Anderson, of Stirling, was born a boy but identified as a girl from a young age and planned to have gender reassignment surgery after turning 18. 

The teenager had delayed taking hormone blockers to allow her sperm to be collected and retained – and had always planned to eventually have a baby.

After falling ill, Ellie was taken to the Forth Valley Royal Hospital where she later died aged 16. The cause of her death is described as ‘unascertained’.  

Now Louise wants to honour Ellie’s wishes posthumously, using an egg donor and a surrogate to produce a grandchild using Ellie’s sperm.

Ellie Anderson, of Stirling, was born a boy but identified as a girl from a young age and planned to have gender reassignment surgery after turning 18

Louise Anderson, 45, plans to go to the highest court in Scotland after learning that samples saved by her 16-year-old daughter Ellie, who died suddenly in July, could be thrown out in days

Solicitors acting on Louise’s behalf applied for advice and assistance under the legal aid scheme to get QC advice on how to proceed.

The planned action would be in the Court of Session, Edinburgh, where judges would initially be asked for an interim interdict preventing the clinic involved, the Glasgow Royal Infirmary Fertility Clinic, from destroying Ellie’s sample.

Then they would be asked to use a special power called the nobile officium.

The procedure of petitioning the nobile officium – Latin for ‘noble office’ – is unique to Scots law and allows judges to provide a legal remedy where statute or the common law are silent – in other words to plug any gap in the law or offer mitigation if the actual law, if applied to the letter, would be oppressive.

Under present UK human fertilization rules, if Ellie had been in a relationship and had a partner at the time of her death, that partner would have had the right to ask for the sperm to be retained.

But without a test case ruling, or ‘declarator’, from the Court of Session, that right cannot be transferred to her mother.

Louise said: ‘Despite being born male, Ellie knew from the age of three that she was destined to be female. Her opinion never changed as some people thought it was a phase. She had her future completely planned out.

‘As a teenager she delayed hormone blockers to save her sperm to enable her to have her own biological children.

‘She had made me promise that if anything were to happen to her, her children would be brought into the world.

‘She wanted two, and she even had names picked out for them.

The planned action would be in the Court of Session, Edinburgh, where judges would initially be asked for an interim interdict preventing the clinic involved, the Glasgow Royal Infirmary Fertility Clinic, from destroying Ellie’s sample 

Ellie had delayed taking hormone blockers to allow her sperm to be collected and retained – and had always planned to eventually have a baby

‘Now I’ve been told that can’t happen because Ellie’s dead and under UK Human Fertilisation and Embyology Authorityn rules her frozen sperm has to be destroyed.

‘Ellie was the bravest person I have ever known.

‘I am going to do every I can to honour her wishes – not just for her but for anyone else who is caught in this position.’

Leading Scottish solicitor Virgil Crawford, who is acting for Louise, said on Monday: ‘Miss Anderson has sought my advice on this unusual, interesting, important and complex legal issue. It is regrettable that it arises against a tragic background of family grief following the unexpected death of a young adult.

‘Ellie began her gender reassignment journey in her early teens. She always intended having a child and, to that end, took steps to have her sperm preserved for use in the future. 

‘Now that she has passed away, it is understandable that Miss Anderson would wish to honour her daughter’s wishes and is extremely concerned at the suggestion that the clinic will destroy the sperm.

‘I am seeking an assurance that the sample will not be destroyed until this issue is resolved. If that assurance is not forthcoming it is likely that an interim interdict will be sought to prevent it.

‘I intend to do all I can to assist Miss Anderson.’ 

Her family describe Ellie as ‘an amazing, vibrant young girl who had her whole life ahead of her’.

She proudly wore a skirt as her St Modan’s RC High School, Stirling, uniform and she was the first transgender child to do so.

Louise said: ‘Her happiest times were going on several holidays with myself, my partner and her brothers, where she wore dresses and was accepted without question for being herself. 

‘Back home, she was so brave wearing her girls’ outfits around town and her philosophy was ‘if you don’t accept me as Ellie that’s your problem, not mine’.’

She had recently secured a place at City of Glasgow College to study hairdressing.

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