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. Continue reading
There’s a recent Ninth Circuit case that deals with a problem that comes up with some regularity, even if you wouldn’t call it common. (The opinion goes into a lot of detail, but you can find a reasonable press account of it here.)
The basic question is whether a child conceived using frozen sperm after the death of the man who was the source of the sperm can be considered to be the child of that man for purposes of obtaining social security benefits. It’s not the specific answer the Ninth Circuit gives here that I want to talk about. I’m interested in thinking about how we ought to approach that problem.
The basic facts are simple. Gabriela and Bruce Vernoff were married. He died unexpectedly in July, 1995. Gabriela got a doctor to collect sperm after his death and had it frozen. Continue reading
Here’s a story about another instance of collection of sperm from a man after his death. In this instance Gisela Marrero was granted permission to collect sperm from the body of her fiancee, Johnny Quintana. Quintana had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Quintana and Marrero already had one child and had discussed having another, as recently as the day before his death. Quintana’s parents supported Marrero’s request.
This case bears an obvious resemblance to the one in Texas not so long ago. There a mother was granted permission to harvest sperm from her son’s body after his death. The Texas case is a bit more complicated, perhaps, because there’s no specific egg donor/mother in mind. By contrast, in the New York case the plan is clear–Marrero would be the mother of any resulting child.
Under the circumstances it’s not surprising that the court hearing took ten minutes. The hard part here might well be getting into a courtroom as it is not exactly clear who you would bring a lawsuit against–no one here objects to the procedure. (I assume the defendant is whoever has custody of the body, who might not agree without a court order.) Additionally from the judge’s point of view, if collection is allowed the result can possibly be reversed later. An order denying collection would be unappealable and irreversible.
Do two cases in a few weeks constitute a trend? It’s quite possible that publicity for these cases will lead to still other cases in instances where no one would have otherwise thought to collect the sperm. Continue reading
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? Continue reading
I read this story this morning and I’ve been trying to figure out what I think about it since then. I’m still not sure.
A young man died tragically after being assaulted on the street. His mother arranged to donate his organs. At the same time, she wanted to collect his sperm so that she could use it at a later time to create grandchildren. She is quoted as saying “I want him to live on,” Evans said. “I want to keep a piece of him.” In addition, according to the mother, the young man had wanted to have children. She sought and obtained a court order allowing her to have the sperm collected.
I wrote about a somewhat similar circumstance not so long ago. In that case the man had already donated the sperm and the court declined to allow his parents to use it. That post in turn will take you back to yet another instance of a similar problem. Each is a slightly different variation, but I think all raise the same larger questions. How do we relate to the stuff from which children are created?
Consider this: The mother of this young man is undoubtedly doing a good deed when she donates his organs. I gather that she has the right to consent to do this. And I imagine that if she had anothcer child, say, who needed one of the organs, we would allow her to direct the organ to that child. (While I think this is so, could I be wrong about that?) Would it be different if she wanted to donate his sperm to someone else who needed it? Continue reading
There really is sort of a thread here. Yesterday I discussed the adoption of frozen embryos. Today a recent case on the disposition of frozen sperm.
In general, this falls in the category of cases where a man donates sperm which is then frozen and, at some point, the man dies. The question is how you decide what to do with the frozen sperm. (This is a more frequent problem with men and sperm than with eggs, in large part because it has only recently become possible to freeze eggs and even now it’s not such a widespread practice.)
The legal questions arise in a variety of contexts. Sometimes there’s a question of posthumous paternity–is a child produced using the sperm the child of the deceased man for purposes of inheritance or social security, say? I’ve also touched on another variation of this problem, though that link is to a recent story that has a novel twist. It’s a case where at the time the man died, he had not donated sperm. It turns out it is possible to retrieve sperm from a man if you act very shortly after his death. Continue reading
Many months ago I wrote about a UK case involving the problem of posthumous children. I recently came across the denouement of the case and thought I’d use the occasion to consider this problem once again. I’m also going to tie in the recent post about the fight over use of frozen embryos after the death of one of the gamete providers.
Here is the story, or at least a version of it. (I’m sorry to say that the account I linked to becomes increasingly confusing, at least as to legal rules, the further you read.)
A young man died unexpectedly during surgery. He was survived by his wife and daughter. It is possible to retrieve sperm from a man for a short time after his death and, at the widow’s request, this was done. Her hope was to use the sperm to create children she might give birth to at some later time. Thus, as she thought about it, she would create a brother or sister for the surviving child.
The problem, of course, is that the husband never consented to any of this. He had not donated his sperm. He had not planned to donate sperm in the future. He had not arranged to have his sperm retrieved in the event he died during surgery. He had certainly not agreed to the use of his sperm after his death. Continue reading