ECtHR / Application no. 46470/11 / Judgment Parrillo v Italy

Key facts of the case:

  1. The applicant was born in 1954 and lives in Rome.
  2. In 2002 she had recourse to assisted reproduction techniques, undergoing in vitro fertilisation (“IVF”) treatment with her partner at the Centre for reproductive medicine at the European Hospital (“the centre”) in Rome. The five embryos obtained from the IVF treatment were placed in cryopreservation.
  3. Before the embryos could be implanted the applicant’s partner died, on 12 November 2003, in a bomb attack in Nasiriya (Irak) while he was reporting on the war.
  4. After deciding not to have the embryos implanted, the applicant sought to donate them to scientific research and thus contribute to promoting advances in treatment for diseases that are difficult to cure.
  5. According to the information provided at the hearing before the Grand Chamber, the applicant made a number of unsuccessful verbal requests for release of the embryos at the centre where they were being stored.
  6. In a letter of 14 December 2011 the applicant asked the director of the centre to release the five cryopreserved embryos so that they could be used for stem-cell research. The director refused to comply with her request on the grounds that this type of research was banned and punishable as a criminal offence in Italy under section 13 of Law no. 40 of 19 February 2004 (“Law no. 40/2004”).
  7. The embryos in question are currently stored in the cryogenic storage bank at the centre where the IVF treatment was carried out.

Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT

  1. Rejects, unanimously, the objection raised by the Government on grounds of non-exhaustion of domestic remedies;
  2. Rejects, by a majority, the objection raised by the Government on grounds of delay in lodging the application;
  3. Rejects, by a majority, the objection raised by the Government on the grounds that the applicant lacks victim status;
  4. Declares, by a majority, the application admissible regarding the complaint based on Article 8 of the Convention;
  5. Declares, unanimously, the application inadmissible regarding the complaint based on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention;
  6. Holds, by sixteen votes to one, that there has been no violation of Article 8 of the Convention.