There’s nothing really surprising about this story in and of itself. In 1986 Chris Biblis was 13 and had been diagnosed with leukemia. Some of his sperm be collected and frozen before he began chemotherapy. In February, over 22 years later, a child was born to Biblis’ wife, Melodie. The child resulted from an embryo that had been created with the long-frozen sperm and an egg harvested from Melodie and then transferred into Melodie’s uterus.
Obviously, 22 years is a long time, but the idea that you could freeze sperm and use it later is widely known now. Still, the case gives me a few things to think about.
As it developed, there’s no doubt that Chris Biblis is the father of the child. He’s genetically related to it, he’s married to the mother, it seems he has been deeply involved in the process of bringing the child into the world and now caring for the child. No matter what my general doubts about sperm donors as fathers, he pretty clearly qualifies. But if someone else were using the sperm (think about the other case I’ve blogged about where the mother had the son’s sperm collected after the son died) would we still think him the father? Which thing or combination of things makes him the father of the child?
I also find myself thinking that as long as he is alive, he has a special interest in the sperm, one that ought to give him a right to prevent anyone else from using it. He’s not a sperm donor in any ordinary sense of the words. He’s a sperm saver. Does that tell us anything about disposition of sperm after death? Had he died, would the sperm be part of his estate? If he leaves no special instructions about it, should it be treated like any other property or is this special? Here, too, there might be connections back to story of the mother who gathered the dead son’s sperm.