NANJING: A landmark court case last Friday has set an important precedent concerning the legal rights of Chinese children born through artificial insemination.
Qinhuai District People's Court in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, ruled that a father surnamed Liu must not deny the inheritance rights of his son, who was conceived by artificial insemination (AI) with sperm donated by another person and born in September 2004.
Liu died of cancer in May that year, and as he was not on good terms with his wife when he died, he bequeathed his house to his mother. His widow filed a lawsuit on behalf of the boy, demanding a share of the house.
According to Ding Weili, a judge of Qinhuai Court, the ruling adhered to the legal spirit concerning AI children. It is believed to be the first court ruling on the matter.
"We ruled based on a Supreme People's Court regulation in 1991. It stipulates that 'an artificial insemination baby conceived with the consent of both husband and wife enjoys the same rights as naturally born children,' although it did not specify inheritance rights," said Ding.
Neither the Marriage Law nor the Inheritance Law mentions these children, Ding added.
"What we can do is to use related laws to protect the legal rights of AI children. But we hope there will be a new law to deal with the issue specifically," said Ding.
According to Miao Xinzhi, a lawyer with Boshida Law Firm in Nanjing, artificial insemination has benefited many couples, but also caused problems concerning inheritance and fostering rights.
With 12.5 per cent of couples in China suffering from infertility, it is estimated that around 500,000 couples are considering using donated sperm, according to medical experts at Jiangsu Provincial People's Hospital.
Both husband and wife are required to sign an application and a contract presented by the hospital, which state clearly the legal status of AI children.
The Ministry of Health has issued rules to regulate the operation of sperm banks and outlined conditions for artificial insemination.
However, both legal and medical experts agree that more needs to be done.
The case generated great interest among the public, and the court held the final hearing at a residential community to enable many local people to participate.
Most were on the side of the widow and child. "Whenever a couple decides to bring a new person into the world, they should understand the responsibility," said one local resident.
(China Daily 04/25/2006 page1)