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News and Views Managing Novel Reproductive Injuries in the Law of Tort: The Curious Case of Destroyed Sperm

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In view of developments in reproductive medicine, clinical mishaps in this domain are beginning to give rise to ‘injuries’ not easily accommodated within the English law of negligence. While ‘personal injury’ is typically understood as manifesting a deleterious ‘physical’ dimension, cases involving the negligent destruction of cryopreserved sperm, as recently litigated in Yearworth & Ors v Bristol NHS Trust (2009), and other media reported mishaps in fertility treatment do not straightforwardly possess this quality. Without modification, the traditional tortious conception of ‘personal injury’ in English law will not be able to address novel claims. Critically, however, nor do alternative modes of redress seem to offer ease of application. Focusing upon the controversial Yearworth case and exploring what is seen as an unpromising framing of loss, the note argues that there is now an urgent need to rethink what counts as ‘personal injury’. Arguing for the formal recognition of ‘reproductive injury’ as an independent head of damage in negligence, and illustrating the presence of judicial support for that approach, the comment suggests that in light of the difficult challenges that lie in the wake of Yearworth, such a development may be not only desirable but necessary.

Affiliations: 1: Senior Lecturer at Law Director of the Centre for Law, Ethics and Society, Cardiff Law School, Cardiff University UK

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