Harvesting Eggs After Death–News from Israel

On a number of occasions in the past I’ve commented on the practice of harvesting sperm from man after he has died.   I’ve also written quite recently about the aggressive use of ART in Israel.   And of course, there’s the intersection of the two–use of posthumous sperm in Israel and how it ties to those aggressive policies on ART.   So this story from Haartez  shouldn’t be at all surprising.   Nevertheless I think it is the first time I’ve seen a report of posthumous egg harvesting.

Here are the basic facts.   Hen Aida Ayish was a 17 year old severely injured in a car accident.   Sadly, she could not be saved.   Her family (I presume this means her parents) authorized the removal of various organs for transplantation and then sought permission to harvest her eggs.   Some of her eggs were then extracted and frozen.

To get this far the family apparently  had to obtain a court order, which they did.   But it seems they will need another court order to actually use the eggs and there doesn’t seem to be any precedent for that.

Initially the family wanted her eggs fertilized before they were frozen–it’s easier to freeze pre-embryos than eggs, I think.   They proposed using sperm from someone who had died as well–someone presumably entirely unknown to them and to their daughter.   This request was not successful and the eggs alone were frozen.  (I’m not exactly sure why this matters, but somehow it seems worth noting.)

So what to say?  It seems to me that this is where attachment to genetic linkages inevitably takes you.   Why have the parents taken this extraordinary step?   Because the possibility of having a child who is genetically linked to their daughter and is very important to them.  Nothing else explains it.

It’s clear, of course, that their daughter will never be able to serve as a social/psychological parent to any chid that might result.   But people who value the genetic linkage typically devalue the social/psychological aspects of parentage and so this may not matter so much.

I think this devaluation of the relational side of parenting is virtually necessary if you are going to take a very strong position on the primacy of the genetic link.   After all, if the genetically linked person is absent for the first ten years of a child’s life, but then walks in and claims parental rights, that person has no social relationship with the child.   But some take the position that he or she should still be entitled to claim rights–even to wrest rights away from those who have been social/psychological parents for those ten years but who have no genetic link.

Needless to say (at least for those who have been reading the blog in the past) I find the devaluation of the emotional/relational side of parenting and the exaltation of genetic linkage problematic.   It’s not so much that I think it is necessarily wrong to harvest the eggs–if you can donate the organs to other people, perhaps you should be able to essentially keep some for your own future use.   But I think it arises from a misguided sense of what is most important–from an attachment to genetic linkage that is overblown.

I’m curious about how people can at once insist on the importance of genetic linkages and also say that this is wrong.   The genes Ms. Ayish carried are those of her parents (I assume).  If the parents use her eggs they can ensure her access to the genetic lineage that preceded her.   They can provide the medical information that is important.

What they cannot provide is an emotional/psychological relationship with the gamete provider, but isn’t the assertion in some of the earlier discussions here (like the comments here about returning the child without regard to emotional connections that may have formed)  a basis for saying that this is less important?

I think some will say that only  Ms. Ayish could be a mother to any child conceived with her eggs and so you would be creating a guaranteed motherless child.    But from a genetic point of view, the child isn’t motherless–it’s just the child of a deceased mother.   And if the social aspects of parenting aren’t that important, then what is the harm to the child in having a deceased mother?   I know I’m missing something here, but it does seem to me there’s a little internal tension around the point.


4 responses to “Harvesting Eggs After Death–News from Israel

  1. Hey why are you concerned about the child not having a relationship with its mother genetic relationships are so irrelevant. If I took your stance her grandparents are not really grandparents they’ll be parents and the child won’t be missing out on a relationship with her mother because her grandmother will be her mother and her mother will be her dead sister and so the child does not loose out on having a relationship with its mother at all and should therefore have no sense of loss because her grandmother will be the mother in every sense of the word right?

    I do find the social aspects of raising a child to be important I think children should have the right to be raised by their parents. I think its their parents obligation and nobody should interfere with that. clearly creating a child after its mother is dead deprives the child of its right to be raised by his or her mother so they are violating the rights of any future grand children they create this way

  2. But the thing is, you think there are pre-defined parents who should raise the child, right? The ones with the DNA. Thus, you start with the answer already in mind.

    I am not concerned that the child doesn’t have a relationship with the provider of the DNA. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. I do find the course of action here a little troubling–but really because I am disturbed that the parents feel the need to do this.

  3. Margaret Somerville is both for the primacy of the genetic connection and against creating children whose genetic parents are already dead – for her it’s about the kid’s right to have a relationship with its biological parents and the death preempts it. I guess she would say that reinserting a kid’s biological parents into its life after 10/20/50 years is a better late than never thing. So I think it’s possible to reconcile the two positions.

    To me one of the really fascinating things about this issue is how different people with similar values come down. So Einat Ramon, who I think is kind of Somerville’s Israeli counterpart with regards to conservatism and bigotry, thinks that the only way sperm donation should be possible is with the sperm of men who have already died (childless).

    Then you have France’s take on conservatism, which is to deny sperm donation to lesbian couples and require that sperm donation *always* be anonymous (plus the whole child of X thing, which to me sounds tragic and also gets the balance between valuing social parenting and genetic parenting totally wrong). Did you see this article?


    • Tara I’m all confused by what you said but I am interested I’m hoping you’ll explain a little more. It sounds like you are in allignment with Somerville in the first paragraph but in the second it sounds like your calling her and the guy from Israel conservative bigots.
      I had some comments on Family Scholars removed because I really liked what she was saying until I got to the part against gay people specifically sort of ignoring the fact that straight married women get pregnant by sperm donors too and they pretend their husbands are fathers too but that to her was not a topic only lesbian partners were bad so I used the term bigot and a few other terms that were not allowed and was privately talked to about prohibited language. I still kind of think she’s a bigot even though of course i agree with her i just want the policy to be applied equally to straights as well as gays. In fact it should be entirely blind to the issue of orientation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s