In Dickson v. The United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found a violation of the right to form a family and the right to privacy in the United Kingdom’s denial to grant the physical conditions necessary for a husband and wife, who were serving extended prison terms, to undergo in vitro fertilization. The Court ruled that when an important facet such as the existence or identity of an individual is in play (such as the decision to become a genetic father or mother), the margin of appreciation accorded to the state will generally be restricted. ECHR, Case of Dickson v. The United Kingdom, No. 4462/04), Judgment of Dec. 4, 2007, para. 78.
“78. Accordingly, where a particularly important facet of an individual’s existence or identity is at stake (such as the choice to become a genetic parent), the margin of appreciation accorded to a State will in general be restricted.
Where, however, there is no consensus within the Member States of the Council of Europe, either as to the relative importance of the interest at stake or as to how best to protect it, the margin will be wider. This is particularly so where the case raises complex issues and choices of social strategy: the authorities’ direct knowledge of their society and its needs means that they are in principle better placed than the international judge to appreciate what is in the public interest. In such a case, the Court would generally respect the legislature’s policy choice unless it is “manifestly without reasonable foundation”. There will also usually be a wide margin accorded if the State is required to strike a balance between competing private and public interests or Convention rights (Evans, cited above, § 77).”