Jeana's World of Law

Jeana's World of Law

Friday, November 30, 2012

Does removal of the anonymity of egg donors decrease egg donations?

Guest post by Lucy Cripes

A U.K. study, 2007 has researched and reported on how to keep the number of egg donors constant after a change in U.K. legislation in 2005, which withdrew egg donor’s anonymity.

Before the year 2005 in the United Kingdom, both egg donors and sperm donors were, by law granted anonymity. However a change of U.K. legislation in 2005 modified the rights of donors. Offspring’s of the donors at aged 18 would now have access to their donor’s identity. There would also be a cost neutrality law. This means that donors would neither make profit nor lose from their donations.

There was concern that this change in legislation could alter the numbers of people willing to make egg donations and sperm donations. Would the levels of eggs available in the egg donor bank fall? Therefore in 2004, before the change in legislation took place, the U.K. department of health conducted a study. This study helped steer decision making.

The study took place in the form of a questionnaire, circulated to fertility clinics throughout the U.K. It asked questions ranging from what was donors responses to the proposed change, did they think it would alter willingness to donate and any suggestions they may have to improve egg donations rates.

One third of the donors expressed concerns about the removal of anonymity. Their concerns ranged from unfounded concerns as would they be made legally and financially responsible for the offspring and would the law be applied retrospectively. They also expressed concerns about how their donors’ rights would be affected, and the emotional future turmoil that may occur if the offspring would choose to make contact.

However, even though concerns about the changed in legislation were very broad, there was a general consensus on how to keep donors interested and to improve recruiting if this legislation was passed. The egg donors agreed that education was the way forward.

It was agreed that education would increase awareness of what exactly egg donation required of the donor. The role of gamete donation could be explained, as its altruistic nature. The benefits of non-anonymous donation could be highlighted along with its disadvantages. Also any un-founded apprehensions towards egg donations could be ruled out. Better educated donors would make more informed decisions and not have any false beliefs about what non-anonymous donating could curtail.

The job of education, it was agreed should fall mostly to the clinics that provide treatment to future donors. In interest of good practice, each clinic should have a sound policy and practice that is audited on a regular basis.

This legislation was passed 7 years ago, therefore did the department of health carry out these suggestions to keep donor numbers high, or the same as before 2005? It would appear so. According to statistics from the Human Fertilization Embryology Authority.  In 2005 the sperm and egg donation collective number was 1222, in 2010 it was 1564. There does not appear to be any evident drop in the number of donations. Actually there seems to be an increase.

Is it time the U.S. took a look at these figures and implemented similar legislation? Would it improve the ethical problems associated with “shopping” for egg donors and sperm? Hopefully this study will at least raise some awareness of ethical issues around egg donation that need to be addressed in the U.S.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gay Men Sue Counselors After Failed Conversion Therapy

The New York Times reports that for the first time ever, Gay "conversion therapy" has been brought into the courtroom.

Gay “conversion therapy” claims to help men overcome unwanted same-sex attractions. It has been widely attacked as unscientific and harmful. 

Since the 1970s, when mainstream mental-health associations stopped branding homosexuality as a mental disorder, a small network of renegade therapists, conservative religious leaders, and self-identified “life coaches” decided to continue arguing that being Gay is not inborn, but an aberration rooted in childhood trauma that can be reversed by conversion therapy. 

According to these therapists, homosexuality is caused by a stifling of normal masculine development, often by distant fathers and overbearing mothers, or by early sexual abuse. These therapy clinics hold private sessions as well as retreats for those struggling with homosexuality.

In New Jersey this week, four gay men who tried the therapy filed a civil suit against a prominent counseling group, JONAH -- Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, charging it with deceptive practices under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act. 
The former clients said they were emotionally scarred by false promises of inner transformation and humiliating techniques that included stripping naked in front of the counselor and beating effigies of their mothers. After they paid thousands in fees over time, they were told that the lack of change in their sexual feelings was their own fault and they could not be helped.

Leading scientific and medical groups say the theories are unfounded and that there is no evidence that core sexual urges can be changed. They also warn that the therapy can, in the words of the American Psychiatric Association, cause “depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior” and “reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

Several confused adolescents seek guidance from conversion therapy, especially as many  practicing religions believe that only those in a heterosexual marriage could achieve eternal bliss. Therapy sessions and retreats could cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000, with many paying around $10,000 per year. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified over 70 conversion therapy clinics within the US.

Monday, November 19, 2012

California Cap-and-Trade Deemed a Success

California kicked-off it's long awaited cap-and-trade auction of greenhouse gas permits last week, and state regulators are deeming it a success.

The state's carbon marketplace had over 23 million allowances up for grabs, and all of them were purchased at $10.09 per permit.

97 percent of the said  allowances were bought by "compliance entities," which are companies that must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions according to CA state regulations.

California's global warming law - AB 32, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, and generate 33 percent of energy through renewable sources (such as projects in wind and solar power San Diego to San Francisco) by 2020. This law makes CA the first state to require a broad range of businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The idea of cap-and-trade is simple: there is an overall "cap" for CA's greenhouse gas emissions, and companies within the state must buy or sell credits to account for how much they pollute. Those that pollute more must either clean up or pay more. 

In this most recent auction, one permit for a ton of carbon sold for $10.09 - which is just a bit more than the $10 minimum set by state regulators, and a lot under the ceiling that was set at $91.13. All in all, approximately $233 million was generated for the state.

Those for the cap-and-trade system, mostly environmentalists, claim that the auctions marks the moment when the US finally addressed climate change.CA has set regulations and financial incentives to pressure industries to reduce their use of fossil fuels, which most likely contribute to climate change and global warming.

Opponents of the system, mostly businesses - in particular those working in oil and power plants and large factories that burn large amounts of fossil fuels, claim that cap-and-trade is a "hidden tax" that will lead to higher utility bills and gas prices.

There are three additional policies to cap-and-trade that set CA apart from other states as a leader in green economy: 1) a low-carbon fuel standard that limits the sale of carbon-intensive fuels, 2) the 33 percent renewable electricity standard by 2020, and 3) the clean-car mandates for automobile producers.

President Obama has also put in place several policies to address climate change, including increasing the national gas-mileage standards to 54 mpg by 2025 and requiring the EPA to create greenhouse gas emission standards for power plants by 2013. Although Congress has refused to pass any climate change related laws, the federal government will now have the chance to watch CA and see if the rest of the country can learn from their so-far-successful system.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Texas Woman Duped Into Surrogacy

This month, Texas courts reached a decision in an unusual custody battle between a gay man and a surrogate woman who claimed she was never a surrogate to begin with. The judge ruled that the woman who gave birth was in fact the legal mother. The case has drawn national attention because the basic argument rests on what the definition of a "mother" is.

Only July 27, 2012, Cindy Close, 48, gave birth for her first time to twins at the Texas Children’s Hospital. Shortly after successfully delivering the children, she was visited by a social worker regarding the “surrogacy situation”. Close was taken aback, as this was the first time she had heard that she was a surrogate. 

No, this is not a case of mild amnesia or a cruel prank. Rather, Close had been duped by her “friend”, Marvin McMurrey.

McMurrey had covered the costs of infertile Close’s in vitro fertilization (IVF) and used his own sperm in addition to the anonymous donor egg. He promised that they would raise the children together as partners. Although Close and McMurray were not in love, or even in a romantic relationship together, her understanding was that they would parent the children together. She was under this assumption up until the day she delivered.

However, McMurrey's promise was just in words, and there was never a written contract. When the children were born, McMurrey quikcly claimed custody of the twins with his male partner. That’s right, he’s gay - another fact he kept secret from Close.

Since Close was not linked to the children genetically, as the twins were a product of female egg donation and his sperm, McMurrey alleged they were not legally hers. He rapidly filed a suit for adjudicate parentage outside of the Texas family code in addition to a temporary restraining order that was used to deny Close maternal rights. 

The twins were sent home with McMurrey, and up until the court case, Close has been granted visitation rights for only two hours a day, six days a week.

Close made a statement that the ruling in her case could have implications for other women who use donor eggs in IVF treatment. If McMurrey had won the case, then the situation could have made it so that any woman who uses donor eggs to have children would have to have her maternity proven by law.

Lucky for Close, the judge ruled that she - along with McMurrey - was the legal parent of the twins and the two will share custody. The conditions of the joint custody are yet to be determined, but one thing is for sure, it will be awkward. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Check Out My Guest Post (Again)!

What a great way to start a week! Check out my guest post on Bitter Lawyer about a woman who was forced to wear an 'Idiot' sign for disobeying traffic laws. What do you think about using humiliation as punishment? 

And don't forget to check out other articles on Bitter Lawyer for some great law-related laughs!! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Colorado and Washington First States to Legalize Marijuana

The 2012 Presidential Elections brought more to celebrate than just four more years or President Obama in the White House. Those in Colorado and Washington are rejoicing over the majority vote to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. These states are the first in the country to successfully legalize marijuana.

The prohibition supporters claim that marijuana research is inconclusive, unfinished, and has yet to be proven safe for recreational use. They stand behind that studies that have shown that marijuana can be addictive and habit-forming. The long-term effects of marijuana, such as its effects on mental disorders, memory, intelligence, and respiratory functions, are still being conducted.

Those supporting the legalization of marijuana support the initiative because marijuana has certain pain-relieving benefits. It can help people suffering from chronic pain and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Supporters state that marijuana prohibition has done more bad than good.

In Colorado, Amendment 64 made the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by adults 21 years of age and older. This is the not the first time the state has voted to legalize marijuana. In 2006, the first time, the measure was voted down. The former initiative aimed at removing punishments for the possession of marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older. The 2012 initiative, however, not only removed penalties, but also proposed a state-regulated system for the production and sale of marijuana. This would rid of the underground black-market marijuana sales and generate new revenue from taxes and criminal justice savings. The drug will be regulated similar to tobacco and alcohol.

In Washington, Initiative 502 will regulate and tax the sale of marijuana in small amounts for adults 21 years of age and older. It states that adults can buy up to one ounce of marijuana or one pound of marijuana enriched products (such as "pot brownies" or "pot cookies"). The initiative sets up a state-licensed marijuana production system and puts in order a standardized blood test limit for those who are driving under the influence of the drug. Legalization in Washington will generate new revenue from taxes and reduce marijauna-related criminal justice spending.

The legalization of marijuana in both states marks a landmark in US history. In those two states alone, the government can tax, monitor, and regulate marijuana growth and production. However, nothing will happen until state officials create legislation and rules that would govern the now legal marijuana industry - which could take several months up to a year.

According to Federal Law, marijuana is an illegal drug. It is unclear how the federal government will act once the regulated marijuana markets begin to set up shop. The historic measure to regulate and tax marijuana similar to alcohol and tobacco may be a model of how legalization should be throughout the country. Colorado and Washington have been given the chance to show the Federal Government whether legalization and decriminalization of marijuana is a viable strategy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama Wins 2012 Presidential Elections: Now What?

Barack Obama won his second term with 303 electoral votes compared to Mitt Romney's 206. In addition, he also overtook the popular votes. Although the celebration continues, the race is over. So now what? According to CNN, there are five things Obama must do.

The five things include managing the Arab world, the economy, the dysfunctional congress (which is now a Democratic Senate and a Republican House of Representatives), tax reform, and climate change.

In a nut shell, here are priorities one through four: Obama must 1) stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and the violence, and unrest, and terrorism spreading within the Middle East; 2) lower the unemployment rate and debt and figure out how to get China to engage in fair trade; 3) manage a two-party Congress that contains leaders from the Tea Party; and 4) cut a deal on tax reform. The four former priorities aren't all that innovative. The Presidents before Obama had pretty much the same list, given some little tweaks here and there. However, fifth priority is a relatively new issue that the President must face that could both affect and be affected by the Arab world, economy, Congress, and tax cuts.

Climate change was not mentioned during the presidential campaign or the debates. In fact it was ignored until Hurricane Sandy showed up at the country's doorstep. Hurricane Sandy may not have been created by climate change, but it certainly burgeoned its force and strength through hotter climates (which lead to both more evaporation and thus moisture in the air as well as creating the ideal pressure system for a super storm) and rising sea levels (which of course lead to more intense storm surges and flooding).

Romney stated loud and proud that he would put Keystone XL into effect on day one of his would-be administration, in addition to stripping the majority of the Environmental Protection Agency's power, among other things. Maybe he wouldn't have said these statements with such gusto if he knew Hurricane Sandy was on its way to show the force of Mother Nature. The truth is that we can no longer rely on coal, which has always been the "bad guy" in the climate change debate.

Right before the election Michael Bloomberg endorsed Obama, stating that he was the President that would take climate change as a serious issue. And it's not just Hurricane Sandy that causes Obama to support initiatives aimed at fighting climate change; throughout his term his administration has supported Providence to San Diego solar and wind projects, cap-and-trade schemes, and initiatives to lower the United States' dependence on foreign oil. In short, Obama believes in climate chance and agrees with the science supporting it.

In his acceptance speech, Obama said, “We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” That's right, climate change, the issue that was ignored throughout the entire 2012 Presidential Elections, is now being included in the same sentence with economy and inequality.

So what can Obama do? Simply, he could create a more regulations through the EPA, install a carbon tax, and set aside more money for renewable energy. Although he faces a divided Congress, it is likely that he may accomplish more goals in his second term than during the first (remember the failed 2010 Energy Bill?). It won't happen in a day, but perhaps Obama could start turning the wheels that get the US to be a country that generates more renewable energy than drilling oil.

In the past, issues regarding the environment have been so far down on the list of priorities that viable options were near impossible. Today, it has made it all the way to the top five. Perhaps thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the importance of these issues will be thwarted into real debate, if not yet legislation, that will help the US move forward in reducing its carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Who Is Legally Responsible When A Tree Falls?

Guest Post by David Cooper

Fallen trees are just one problem that resulted from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Many of these trees damaged homes, cars, and even took lives. However, some trees may not cause any damage but may still be a safety issue, inconvenience, or eyesore to have across a yard or driveway.  

The Insurance Information Institute released a press release following Hurricane Sandy stating that homeowners insurance policies for hurricane damage do not cover tree removal if the fallen tree did not damage an insured structure. 

What this means is that if a tree fell and hit a house or car, then its removal and damage-related costs are covered. However, if a tree fell and no damage was caused, neither insurance nor the city will cover the costs. In these situations, the tree will remain where it fell until the property owner either pays for its removal or removes it themselves.

However, this issue doesn't just affect those who live in the path of hurricanes. For example, on the other side of the country in Washington, Seattle and surrounding local jurisdictions have ordinances that hold a homeowner responsible for any damage caused by street trees that are not planted by that state's municipalities. These are technically "wild" trees that grew on their own, and any Arborist Seattle to New Jersey knows that the removal of these trees can be tricky.

In the US, no one is held legally responsible for "acts of nature". If a tree falls on a person's property, regardless of where it came from, they are responsible for the removal of the tree and resulting debris on their property. 

If a person lives in close proximity to any trees that are not owned, it is advised to contact the local utilities or transportation department to ensure that they are aware of all of the risks of what could happen if those trees suddenly fall. In order to legally remove problem street trees, a permit is required. Some cities will issue the permit for free, but you have to pay for removal. From New York City to Bellevue tree removal services can assist those with problem or fallen trees.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy's Effect on the Elections

New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg - a political independent, announced that he was endorsing President Obama, specifically because of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy literally helped him make up his mind between two presidential candidates that he before pretty much equally criticized. Skeptics are now wondering how Sandy will reshape the opinion of other votes and affect the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.

Hurricane Sandy not only caused the city of New York, and United States overall, billions of dollars in damages, but also took several lives. Bloomberg said he had decided over the past days that Obama is the best candidate to tackle the global climate change, which he believes contributed to the violent storm.

Bloomberg’s announcement is just one example of how Sandy may influence the 2012 presidential elections. The hurricane, and the damage it caused, has not only taken over the news coverage, but prompted both Obama and Romney, albeit only for four days, to stop campaigning. 

Romney may be experiencing negative feedback due to the hurricane, as he is being interrogated regarding a statement he made in 2011 about using federal funds for disaster relief. Romney had said to CNN's John King that if elected, he would give the states a larger share of the federal government’s role in disaster response. So would he demolish FEMA? Now he is saying no, but regardless, this topic will be fresh on the mind of many voters when they reach the ballot box. At the same time, Obama is hand-in-hand with Governor Christie, visiting the most damaged areas, stating that the government is in for the "long haul". And lets not forget the whole climate change issue and how it was avoided in all three debates.

When it comes to climate change, Obama is a firm believer. His administration issued the first carbon dioxide reduction requirements for both vehicles and new power plants, as well as supports cap-and-trade. Obama supports tax initiatives and subsidies for projects throughout the country regarding wind and solar San Diego to New York City. The climate science, however, does not convince Romney, who disagrees that CO2 is harmful to the environment and health. He opposes cap-and-trade and any sort of tax on carbon. Romney has said that he would amend the US Clean Air Act in order to reduce the Environmental Protection Agency's power in reducing carbon pollution.

Candidates aside, Sandy is affecting other election-related things as well. Polling places could face complications if they are still experiencing power outages, as no power for electronic voting machines combined with a lack of paper ballots could cause disorder. If a polling place is damaged, and relocation is necessary, there isn't much time left to do so.

If voters are still stuck on Tuesday, they may be unable to get to a polling place due to blocked roads and may be unable to mail in an absentee ballot in time to meet the deadline. Several states, in hope to accommodate affected voters, have pushed back voter registration deadlines and announced extend voting hours.

However, from now until election day, neither candidate can ignore what happened thanks to Sandy since many of the victims are still feeling the effects of the damage caused. 

No one can really ever say if Sandy will sway votes, with the exception of publicly made endorsements of course. Either way - no matter the outcome of of Tuesday's election - it will be interesting to see if climate change will becomes a topic that the next POTUS will focus on.