A LESBIAN couple pursuing a civil action after unexpectedly having twins through IVF treatment have hit out at the controversy surrounding their case, saying it exposes double standards within the community.
The couple's reaction came as Liberal senator Guy Barnett said the case undermined "the importance of parenthood" and called for a ban on single women and lesbian couples accessing taxpayer-funded IVF services.
The women are seeking more than $400,000 in damages following a 2003 IVF procedure in which two embryos were implanted rather than one, as requested. This increased the risk of multiple pregnancy from 0.1 per cent to 20 per cent, the ACT Surpreme Court heard.
The couple, whose names have been suppressed, issued a handwritten statement to reporters yesterday as lawyers for both parties delivered closing arguments.
They said the case exposed a belief in "sectors of society, including the gay and lesbian community, that minority groups should be grateful for equal rights". "If gratitude is a condition of these rights, then they are not full and genuinely equal," the statement read.
The couple said their case had nothing to do with their twin girls, now aged three, not being loved. "They are cherished."
Rather, it hinged on a doctor's duty of care and the right of a patient to be subject to the procedure they consented to.
Canberra obstetrician Sydney Robert Armellin admitted the mother told him immediately before the procedure she wanted only one embryo transferred.
However, Dr Armellin's barrister, Kim Burke, said the doctor assumed the embryologist, whom he was supervising, had also been told.
Counsel for the couple, Hugh Marshall SC, said the mother had consented to only the lower level of risk. He said Dr Armellin had a duty of care that bliged him to comply with his patient's wishes.
Ms Burke has argued the doctor's duty did not extend to preventing multiple pregnancies.
She said the couple had contributed to the mistake by not advising staff at the Canberra Fertility Clinic that only one embryo was to be implanted. The mother had signed a form consenting to the transfer of one or two embryos but was told she could make a decision on the day of the procedure.
Ms Burke said the mistake was the result of a failed system of communication, which her client was part of, but not responsible for. The damages sought are mostly to cover the costs of raising the additional child.
However, Ms Burke said it was "a legal nonsense" to claim one half of a pregnancy as an injury and the other half not.
I do not know what I think, except that I like that they raised the point about gratitude. Thoughts, anyone?