Taking Sperm After Death Follow-Up

Here’s a second article on that Texas case I discussed earlier in the week.   As was discussed in the original story Nikolas Colton Evans died after an assault.  He was 21.  His mother, Missy Evans, wanted to have some of his sperm removed from his body to allow her to create a child (using a surrogate) at some point in the future.

The second article does not add a many more facts to those recounted in the the first story.   It does confirm that the procedure the mother wanted was completed.   But for the most part, the article focuses on the views of various ethicists who generally find the proceedings problematic.

I’m actually quite disappointed with the commentary of the ethicists quoted here.   It may, of course, be the reporting.  But there’s little in their commentary that really advances thinking about this problem.   One characterizes any new child created as a “replacement child,” but this is apparently his terminology rather than that of Missy Evans.

To the extent there is an ethical/moral dilemma here (and I concede I find the story somewhat troubling) a bit more precision would help.  Should we be concerned because any resulting child may be disadvantaged or harmed?  Or should we be concerned because there could be a violation of the rights of Nikolas Evans?  

I think separating these questions is helpful.   Nikolas Evans is apparently an organ donor.  (That’s in the earlier article.)  It’s not clear whether this is something he agreed to in his lifetime or something his mother agreed to after his death.  In either case, is their reason why donation of sperm is morally different than donation of other organs, if we think about it from his point of view?

As for the child, I reject the framing of the question provided by Tom Mayo (he’s also the one who used the phrase “replacement child.) He says “That child’s biological father will be dead. The mother may be an egg donor, anonymous or gestational surrogate.”

If you’ve been reading this, you know I’m no fan of the term “biological father.”   I’ll obviously concede that the donor is dead, but I’d also assert that in this case, the donor cannot possibly be a father to this child.   So I’d say the child’s donor would be dead.   But I’m not convinced that is necessarily a terrible thing–in fact, this child might well know a good deal more about her/his donor than children conceived via anonymous donors do.

Beyond that, it’s too early to say who the child’s mother will be.  There may indeed be an egg donor, of course.   And there might be a surrogate of some sort.   We just don’t know.    Is there more reason to worry about this child than there is about countless other children who will be born in the next five years?   I am not sure.

I know there are a couple of comments on my original post that I need to read a bit more thoughtfully.   Perhaps they’ll help. So far, I’m still in a muddle on this one.  I retain some visceral sense that this is a peculiar thing to do, but I am unable to precisely articulate why.

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