Retrieving Sperm from the Dead Possible, but Ethical?

Retrieving Sperm from the Dead Possible, but Ethical?

Mackenzie Thompson

by Mackenzie Thompson

Life Saver, AMC

posted on Nov 12, 2013, at 9:51 pm


Postmortem sperm retrieval (PMSR) is a process of using the sperm from a deceased man to fertilize an egg. Requests for PMSR are increasing, but the US doesn’t have any guidelines concerning the process. Dr. Larry Lipshultz, a urologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, argues that since there is no governmental regulations concerning the time-sensitive process, institutions should create their own rules to handle the subject.

PMSR brings about many ethical concerns, for example: is it in the best interest of the child to be brought into this world without a father? Would the deceased have given consent? Could just anyone use the sperm? Requests generally come from a terminally ill man or the wife or parents of a young man who suddenly died before having the chance to leave a child.

One thing that’s certain is that the man’s wishes should be clear. Some present institutions demand written consent from the sperm donor. The problem is that in most cases, requests come when a man died unexpectedly, before giving consent. However, if there is evidence that sperm retrieval may have been what the deceased may have wanted, the request may be approved. An instance like this may include a couple that had been attempting to conceive or possibly have mentioned it to friends and family. According to a study published by Lipshultz and his colleagues, despite what many would think, most men would agree to using their sperm to conceive after death. The study found that 85% of men visiting a sperm bank gave consent for PMSR.

The incentive behind the application for PMSR is another issue that must be greatly considered. Experts say grieving family members might not be able to make rational decisions in the given situation. This knowledge brought about a recommendation of a waiting time of a couple months to a year before using the postmortem sperm.

Currently, this ethically-questionable process is illegal in France, Germany, Sweden and other countries. In the UK, it can only be done with written consent. In the US, some approvals follow the rules that govern organ donation. The Universal Gift Act of 2006 allowed the kin of the deceased to consent to the retrieval of organs and tissues unless there is clear evidence that the deceased wished otherwise. In 2006, a judge ruled that consent for the retrieval of organs and sperm may be consented by the donor’s parents, following the same guidelines that the deceased didn’t specifically refuse.

Researchers say that regardless of the situations and the reasons behind PMSR , the ultimate goal is that the wishes of the deceased are respected in the policies and that it is always in the best interest of the family and the future child.

About Mackenzie

Mackenzie is a lover of world travel, photography, design, style and Chinese cooking. She is passionate about working towards a purpose, recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Media and Marketing, and is currently residing in Manhattan.

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