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Culliton v. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
756 N.E.2d 1133 (2001)
Marla and Steven Culliton (plaintiffs) contracted with Melissa Carroll to have Carroll carry their embryos during gestation. The embryos were formed using only the Cullitons’ genetic material, and Carroll’s only role was to be the gestational carrier. Carroll was able to carry twin babies for the Cullitons. Before the babies’ expected delivery date, the Cullitons petitioned a family court to order the hospital to list them as the twins’ legal parents immediately following the birth. Carroll stipulated that she agreed to the request. However, the family court found that there was no existing law or statute giving it the authority to directly declare that someone other than the delivering person was a child’s legal parent. There were adoption laws that allowed indirect declarations, but these laws required delays and did not fit the nature of the Cullitons’ request. Other laws allowed indirect declarations in surrogacy cases in which the gestational carrier was also the biological mother, but these cases did not fit the Cullitons’ gestational-carrier situation either. Therefore, even though everyone involved had agreed that the Cullitons should be listed as the twins’ legal parents, the family court ruled that it did not have any legal authority to order the hospital to grant this request, and it denied the petition. The family court then sent the case to the state’s supreme court. The supreme court received the case the day after the twins were born. While the case was pending, temporary court orders delayed listing anyone as the twins’ legal parents until the matter could be resolved.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Greaney, J.)
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