Yearworth V North Bristol Nhs Trust Notes
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Yearworth v North Bristol NHS Trust  EWCA Civ 37 Court of Appeal Facts C, who were all diagnosed with cancer, were advised to freeze some of their sperm. They did this, storing it in the Hospital's fertility unit. The hospital promised to take all reasonable care to ensure the sperm could still be used in five to ten years time. However, before the samples could be used, they thawed out and perished. Issue Body parts Held Lord Judge CJ • Claim for personal injury o It was claimed that had sperm been inside the men and the sperm injured while in the testes by, e.g. radiation, this would have constituted personal injury And the men's ejaculation of it should therefore make no difference - unlike hair clippings, the sperm were ejaculated with a view to their being kept. o Damage to, and consequential loss of, the sperm did not constitute "personal injury". it would be a fiction to hold that damage to a substance generated by a person's body, inflicted after its removal for storage purposes, constituted a bodily or "personal" injury to him • We must deal in realities. • Damage to property o The judge accepted that the effect of the HTAct was to eliminate any rights of ownership of the sperm otherwise vested in the men for the purposes of an action in negligence. However, this would be a curious consequence of an Act designed to give legal effect to principles of good practice in modern reproductive medicine • that it should deprive the men of what would otherwise be their ability to recover damages for an admitted breach of the trust's duty of care in respect of their sperm. o In this jurisdiction developments in medical science now require a re-analysis of the common law's treatment of and approach to the issue of ownership of parts or products of a living human body, whether for present purposes (viz an action in negligence) or otherwise The easiest course would be to say the sperm were property via Doodleward - • the unit's storage of the sperm in liquid nitrogen was an application to the sperm of work and skill which conferred on it a substantially different attribute, namely the arrest of its swift perishability o However, Doodeward was devised as an exception to a principle, itself of exceptional character, relating to the ownership of a human corpse. o A distinction between the capacity to own body parts or products which have, and which have not, been subject to the exercise of work or skill is not entirely logical. Why, for example, should the surgeon presented with a part of the body, e.g. a finger he is to try an reattatch to a hand
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