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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Misjudging early embryo mortality in natural human reproduction.

Jarvis, Gavin E. (2020) Misjudging early embryo mortality in natural human reproduction. F1000 Research, 9. p. 702. ISSN 2046-1402

Item Type: Article


In 2002, in a judgment relating to the use of the morning-after pill, Mr Justice Munby held that pregnancy begins with the implantation of an embryo into the uterus of a woman. The case involved a large body of expert witness evidence including medical and physiological details of human reproduction. Munby J. emphasised one particular aspect of this evidence: namely, the developmental failure rate of human embryos after fertilisation. Under natural conditions, embryo loss is approximately 10-40% before implantation, and total loss from fertilisation to birth is 40-60% (Jarvis, 2016). By contrast, and based on expert witness testimony, Munby J. stated that not much more than 25% of successfully fertilised eggs reach the implantation stage, and that fewer than 15% of fertilised eggs result in a birth, figures that do not accurately represent scientific knowledge regarding human embryo mortality and pregnancy loss under natural conditions. Rather, these figures were derived from experimental laboratory data and clinical outcomes from fertilisation treatment. Testimony provided by other expert witnesses directly contradicted these specific numerical claims. In emphasising these figures, Munby J. gave the impression that human embryo mortality is substantially higher than available scientific evidence indicated. In this critique, all the scientific expert witness evidence is presented and reviewed, and an explanation provided for why the emphasised figures are wrong. Whether there are implications of Munby J.'s scientific misjudgment on the legal outcome is for others to consider.

Jarvis (2020) Misjudging early embryo mortality in natural human reproduction [version 1, peer review, 2 approved], F1000.pdf - Published Version
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Depositing User: Gavin Jarvis


Item ID: 14426
Identification Number:
ISSN: 2046-1402
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ORCID for Gavin E. Jarvis: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2022 12:47
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2022 13:00


Author: Gavin E. Jarvis ORCID iD

University Divisions

Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing > School of Medicine


Sciences > Biomedical Sciences
Sciences > Health Sciences
Law > Law

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