Should Dead Men Be Able To Father Children?

The more advanced we become at creating life in all sorts of new-fangled ways, the more people who previously wouldn’t have been able to conceive are able to have children. Now, that may even include dead people.

The rules of post-humous baby making are being written as different precedent-setting scenarios are playing out right now, all across the world.

As Bonnie Rochman reports in, last month an Australian woman was granted permission to use her dead husband’s sperm to try to create a child via IVF. Mark Edwards was killed in a work accident last year. Although it’s illegal to use sperm without donor consent in New South Wales, where the couple lived, a judge ruled in favor of Jocelyn Edwards.

A couple in Israel wants to be allowed to use their dead son’s sperm to conceive grandchildren.

A California woman is due in three months with her dead husband’s child. He died before she got pregnant.

Rochman describes how hard it is to draft laws governing such things as each situation is so drastically different. For example, soldiers headed to dangerous war zones often freeze sperm so their wives can conceive if they die. Patients with cancer do the same thing, with boys as young as 9-years-old freezing sperm should chemotherapy destroy their fertility. But what about the Israeli grandparents’ quest for a grandchild from their son who was injured last year and died after two weeks in a coma?  How should the government rule?

27-year-old Ohad Ben-Yaakov wasn’t in a committed relationship, his parents, Mali and Dudi Ben-Yaakov had his sperm extracted after his death. “If we were entitled to donate the organs of our son why are we not entitled to make use of his sperm in order to bring offspring to the world?” they asked in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.

“Creating a grandchild is much different than creating a child.” says Theresa Erickson, an attorney interviewed by Rochman. “Imagine what the child will think: My dad’s dead and he never even knew I existed.

Erickson represents the aforementioned California woman who became pregnant using the sperm her husband froze before dying of cancer. California law governing the posthumous use of sperm requires a fetus be in utero within two years of the death, assuming the donor gave consent before he died.

It’s a sticky moral and ethical question that I don’t think one sweeping law can answer. What do you think? Should the ability to father after death be decided on a case-by-case basis? Should only wives who have their husband’s pre-death permission be able to conceive? Or should two loving grandparents prepared to give a child a good home be allowed to harvest their dead son’s sperm?

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