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In Vitro Twins Born to Widow Lose Benefits Suit

(CN) - Michigan twins who were conceived by artificial insemination after their father's death are not entitled to his Social Security benefits, the state Supreme Court ruled.

Pamela Mattison sued the Social Security commissioner in the Western District of Michigan, after the commissioner had denied her request for benefits on behalf of twins M.M. and M.M. They were conceived in vitro 12 days after the unexpected death of their father, Jeffery Mattison, in 2001.

The federal court referred the question to the Michigan Supreme Court, which sided with the government on Dec. 21.

"Because plaintiff's twins were not in gestation at Jeffery's death, no inheritance rights vested in them at the time pursuant to [state law]," according to the majority opinion authored by Justice Marilyn Kelly. "Moreover, because the twins were not living at the time of his death, they had no inheritance rights as his heirs."

In a separate, concurring opinion, Kelly called the decision "lamentable" and urged the Michigan Legislature to address the issue so children of in vitro fertilization can get Social Security benefits.

Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. dissented, stating that the question should not have been referred to the Michigan Supreme Court because the law was clear.

In October 2012, the Utah Supreme Court decided a similar case in denying benefits to children born from artificial insemination two years after the father's death.

Both rulings align with an in vitro fertilization decision the Supreme Court reached five months earlier in Astrue v. Capato.

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