Parrillo v. Italy: Embryos, mere pieces of property or are they more?

The European Court of Human Rights will soon be hearing the case of Adelina Parrillo v. Italy.  The Court will be holding a hearing in this case on June 18, 2014.

Adelina v. Italy is a case involving Adelina Parrillo, a 48-year-old Italian woman and her embryos.  She has a condition known as endometriosis, which is where tissue that is supposed to be on the inside of the uterus is found on the outside of it.  This condition causes pain in the pelvis and more specifically for this case infertility.  As a result of this condition, she and her husband decided to have children by medically assisted procreation (MAP).  The couple had five embryos created and frozen for implantation.  Her husband, however, died in 2003, so Parrillo decided not to have any of the embryos implanted.  Then, in 2004, Italy passed the Italian Act.  Article 13 of this Act criminalized the destruction of human embryos, even for scientific research purposes.  Thus, Parrillo could not have the embryos destroyed.

In light of the situation, she brought a claim to the European Court of Human Rights in 2011.  She claimed that Article 13 of the Italian Act violated her “property rights” over the frozen embryos under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 and that her “right to private life under Article 8.  Article 13 requires her to keep the embryos frozen until they are no longer viable.  She is not allowed to donate the embryos for scientific research.  The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) argue that “Abortion allows the destruction of embryos in utero in order to protect the right to life and health of the mother.  The destruction of embryos in vitro is not necessary to protect a comparable, concurrent right, such as the right to life of the mother.”  This case is trying to defend the rights of the unborn under the EU context.

How do you think this case should and/or will turn out?  Are these embryos just pieces of property that Parrillo has full control over?  Shouldn’t she have the final say in what becomes of the embryos?  Does Article 13 and the ECLJ have the stronger argument?

Source: Turtle Bay and Beyond

Image: Turtle Bay and Beyond


  1. The case discussed is definitely a fascinating one. It is hard to categorize these embryos, especially since they are not in any uterus and the frozen embryos can ultimately cease being viable. I personally would think Parrillo should have control of these embryos, since they are the creation of her and her late husband’s and she should ultimately have the choice of what she wants to do with them. The ECLJ makes an important distinction between embryos in utero and embryos in vitro and that distinction should ultimately be recognized. While the ECLJ recognizes this distinction as to the right to life of the mother, the distinction should also take into account the stages in which the embryos exist in these two contexts. The embryos cannot produce life unless they are in utero.
    Also, the court should take into account whether it is feasible for a 48-year old widow to have 5 children. I also wonder if she is able to donate these embryos to other women trying to get pregnant.

  2. I agree with Ms. Danielle Sullivan above. It really is an interesting yet difficult case. Arguments can be made for both sides. The embryos are in limbo for argument purposes. As Ms. Sullivan has stated above, the embryos are not in any uterus yet the embryos are still viable because they are frozen. I agree with Ms. Sullivan that Parrillo should get control over these embryos. These embryos are only in existence because Parrillo and her husband decided to create them. As a result, she should have the final say as to what should happen to these embryos. Also, Ms. Sullivan stating the fact that these embryos cannot produce life unless they are in utero is a very good point. The Court should look into the other points that Ms. Sullivan has stated as well. If these points are considered, I like Ms. Sullivan believe that Parrillo should ultimately get the final say regarding these embryos.

  3. I think that Adelina Parillo should have full control over her embryos. If she is unable to destroy the embryos and unable to donate them for scientific purposes, I think that she is being denied her property rights. I believe that a woman should have control over her body and even if a part of her is outside her body, it is still hers to control. This can be similar to when men go to a sperm bank and donate their sperm. Do they have the right to tell the sperm bank to destroy the sperm? However, in this case Ms. Parillo is not donating her embryos, they are for her own use. Since they are still technically hers because she was planning on using the embryos for her own purpose, she should have a say over what should be done with them. I am not sure what Italy’s stance on abortion is, but I feel that might definitely help the court with their decision.

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