Can ownership of reproductive material be transferred?

Author: Donrich Thaldar

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Professor of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal; Visiting Scholar, Petrie-Flom Center, Harvard Law School
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 140 Issue 3, p. 495-504


Regulation 18 of the Regulations Relating to the Artificial Fertilisation of Persons provides for an ownership scheme in reproductive material — eggs, sperm and embryos — outside the human body. Within this regulatory scheme, the following question is pertinent: can ownership of reproductive material, once acquired in terms of reg 18, be transferred to someone else? To answer this question, reg 18 is analysed using well-established tools of statutory interpretation. The conclusion drawn is that a broad interpretation of reg 18 should be followed that allows for the transfer of ownership. Attention is drawn to case law that contradicts this conclusion, but it is shown that the rationale for the relevant decision lacks any depth. Accordingly, the decision should urgently be challenged in the public interest.