Harvesting a Dying Man’s Sperm Raises Multiple Ethical and Legal Issues

In a previous post I wrote on the question(s) presented by children conceived after the death of their biological father. Specifically, “What legal rights – if any – does a child both born and conceived after the father’s death have?.”

It turns out that, in Ohio, the answer to that question may turn on the definition of the word “begotten”, a past participal of “beget” which means 1. To father; sire. or 2. To cause to exist or occur; produce[.] (citation) Its interesting to note, however, that the procreational sense of the verb may not have actually arisen until around 1205 AD. Until then “beget” meant “to get by effort, find, acquire, attain, seize[.]”

I was reminded of this by the story of Amy Kruse, 23, of Hillsboro, and Daniel Christy, 23, of Bonaparte, Iowa and Amy’s race to harvest Daniel’s sperm before his family removed life support. This cases raises a number of issues:

First, Amy couldn’t get the hospital to agree to perform the harvesting procedure because “[t]he University Hospital’s ethical issues subcommittee could not agree on whether to allow the procedure. According to one clinical ethicist, retrieving sperm from a dying man is rarely justified because his posthumous reproduction desires are often unknown.” citation2 Which raises the question of whether or not a new advance directive is a good idea to record such wishes before a person becomes incapacitated or dies.

Then, when a court order was produced to compel the hospital to perform the procedure, a storage facility still had to be located. And even then, after the facility was found and the procedure performed, there is still the unresolved question of what rights the posthumously-conceived child will have in any of her father’s property.

See “Racing against time, man’s sperm harvested before he dies.”

Many thanks again to Professor Beyer for this one.

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