I might still want my dead husband’s baby: A widow’s bid to change the law

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A grieving widow from Milton Keynes is preparing for a High Court battle that will decide whether her dead husband’s sperm will be destroyed.

Beth Warren is facing the heartache of potentially having to give up on her dreams of having a baby fathered by her late husband after he lost a brave fight with cancer.

Beth and husband Warren Brewer always wanted to have children, but their dreams were cruelly shattered when he died of a brain tumour in February 2012.

They had been together for eight years and got married in Willen Hospice six weeks before Warren, a skiing and snowboarding instructor from Woburn Sands, died aged just 32. They had been planning to get married for some time but cancelled their original wedding because of Warren’s condition.

After first falling ill just 10 months into their relationship, Warren stored samples of his sperm ahead of starting gruelling cancer treatment which had the potential to leave him infertile.

The storage period was time-limited and, over the years, he regularly extended it. He also repeatedly agreed to his sperm being used by Beth after his death.

However, he died before he could complete the forms again in 2012, meaning his sperm is set to be destroyed in April 2015.

Beth says this means she would need to start IVF treatment immediately to have a child before the samples are destroyed. Furthermore, she would be unable to conceive the second child she and Warren had planned.

Now the 28-year-old from Newport Pagnell, who took her husband’s Christian name as her surname following his death, has launched a legal battle to give her the chance of realising their dream. Her case will be heard in the High Court on January 31.

She admits she may never be ready to have a child who will never meet its father, but wants more time to decide, and become emotionally and financially secure first.

“It would set a legal precedent, meaning no other widow or widower would face this situation,” said Beth, who starts work as a physiotherapist this week.

“I’m so tired of fighting – first the cancer, now this. I’m looking forward to it being over, but I’m trying to stay as hopeful as possible. I’ve got to do everything I possibly can.

“I’ve not slept properly since the day the legal battle started. I know he wanted to give me this option. But is it fair on the child to bring them into a world where they will never meet their father?”

Beth is not only grieving for her husband, but also her brother, Edward, a Thames Valley Police officer who was killed in a car crash just weeks before Warren’s death.

A month after Warren died, Beth says she was told she had just six weeks to use his sperm as the last consent form lapsed in April 2013, But the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) reinterpreted existing paperwork and granted two short extensions.

Beth is now asking the High Court for the storage period to be extended indefinitely, but the HFEA insists the storage period cannot be extended without Warren’s consent.

The HFEA says it has ‘every sympathy’ with her, but insist the law cannot be changed.

It said in a statement: “We have been in discussions with Mrs Warren’s solicitors for some time and each time new information has been presented to us, we have reconsidered the legal situation in as responsive a way as possible.

“However, the law on the storage of gametes is clear and the HFEA has no discretion to extend the storage period beyond that to which her husband gave written consent.”

Beth said: “I’m still heartbroken and need to first find happiness within myself.

“Warren’s family are all behind me and my family and friends have been extremely supportive.

“If, and when I’m ready, I want the chance to be able to have his baby.”

A website was launched last week to promote support for the legal challenge at www.backbethwarren.co.uk