In vitro fertilization is a well-known medical procedure used to address infertility. The first so-called "test-tube baby" was born in 1978. Today, in vitro fertilization accounts for thousands of births every year (though these births are just a fraction of all births in the nation). The fertilization process takes place outside of the body, wherein egg cells are injected with sperm; the fertilized egg is then placed in the woman's uterus.
The legal complications of in vitro fertilization can arise when the clinic causes a mix-up of eggs or sperm, for instance, or improper screening of donor eggs or sperm.
Nonetheless, in vitro fertilization is a tremendous medical advance for women who experience infertility, for whom pioneer Robert G. Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010.
In a short time, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case regarding in vitro fertilization - but it has nothing to do with improper screening or sperm mix-ups.
As James Vicini reports for Reuters, Karen Capato was denied Social Security survivor benefits for her twins, who were born one year after her husband's death. If the natural timeline seems wrong, it's because Capato underwent in vitro fertilization using her husband's sperm, which he deposited at a clinic after his cancer diagnosis, prior to his death.
Now, the question is whether kids who are conceived posthumously should be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits. The Court is expected to rule in June of 2012.
Source: Reuters, "Court to hear in vitro fertilization benefits," by James Vicini, 11/15/11