A California judge has ruled against a woman locked in a bitter dispute with her ex-husband to use frozen embryos over his objections, in a closely watched case.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo based her decision on an agreement Mimi Lee and Stephen Findley signed at a fertility clinic in 2010, when Lee was diagnosed with cancer.
The document stipulated that five embryos the couple decided to cryogenically freeze to preserve their chance to have children would be thawed and destroyed in the event of divorce.
"It is a disturbing consequence of modern biological technology that the fate of the nascent human life, which the embryos in this case represent, must be determined in a court by reference to cold legal principles," the judge wrote.
The case has been watched with interest in the United States as a test of the fate of frozen embryos in divorce cases.
Lee, a 46-year-old pianist and part-time anaesthesiologist, unsuccessfully argued that the embryos were her last chance at having biological children because she was left infertile following treatment for breast cancer.
Her ex-husband, an investment executive, however insisted that the consent agreement the couple signed was clear and legally binding.
The couple have been embroiled in a bitter legal battle over the embryos since their divorce in 2013. The judge's ruling can be appealed.