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Exhibition Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustration

Marilyn Church. Test Tube Baby, 1978. Colored pencil, porous point pen, and water-soluble crayon on tan laid paper. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (012.00.00)
LC-DIG-ppmsca-50996 © Marilyn Church
Gift of the family of Marilyn Church

Frozen Embryos as Personal Property

In 1978, as the first "test tube" baby was born in England, John and Doris Del Zio sued Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, and Dr. Raymond Vande Wiele for emotional damages in the case of Del Zio v. Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, U.S. Dist. Lexis 14550 (1978). Their lawyer Michael Dennis stands before Judge Charles Stewart, arguing that Vande Wiele, by exposing their fertilized embryos to the air in 1973, had destroyed their property and caused emotional distress. The doctors at Columbia Presbyterian encouraged the Del Zios to sue because they wanted to continue in vitro fertilization (IVF) research. While on August 18, 1978, the jury awarded small damages for the emotional distress, it found that the embryos were not the couple's personal property.