Decision of the ECHR: « Human embryos cannot be reduced to goods”

Publié le 26 Aug, 2015

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has just made public its decision concerning the case of Parrillo versus Italy: with 16 voices to ones, the judges refused Mrs Parrillo’s request. The women had frozen embryos that had been made during an IVF with her companion. The latter having died, she wanted to give these embryos to research on the grounds that they belonged to her.[1]


The ECHR was called upon in 2011, but considering the ethical issues at stake, the request was taken over by the Grand Chamber in July 2014.

Mrs Parrillo based her argument on the article 1 of the protocol n°1, which guarantees the protection of property as well as on the article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the respect of private and family life. However, according to the European judges, Italy has not violated the right to the respect of private and family life. Besides, the Court considered that the article 1 of the protocol n°1 (protection of property) “is not applicable in the present case, to the extent that human embryos cannot be reduced to ‘goods’.”


[1] In Italy, human embryos are defined in the law as “legal subjects, benefitting from the respect of human dignity”. In its conclusions, the Italian government had underlined that “the natural destination of an embryo is life”. Concerning medically assisted procreation, a limited number of 3 embryos can be created in order to avoid “supernumerary embryos” devoid of any parental project. All of them are implanted or given to infertile couples. They cannot be given to research as this would imply having them destroyed.

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