Fact or Fiction: Parents May Use Deceased Children’s Sperm or Eggs to Create Grandchildren

Fact! In several court cases Judges have allowed parents to harvest sperm or eggs from deceased adult children in order to attempt to create grandchildren with surrogates!

Image Source: theatlantic.com

In 2007, a court in Iowa authorized recovery of a man’s sperm by his parents to donate to his fiance for future procreative use. In 2009, a Texas woman got a judge’s permission to have her 21-year-old son’s sperm extracted after his death, with the intention of hiring a surrogate mother to bear her a grandchild.

Most recently in 2019, after a fatal ski accident West Point cadet Peter Zhu was declared brain-dead four days after the skiing incident. He was kept on artificial life support to allow for organ harvesting. Zhu’s parents received court permission to have his sperm retrieved and frozen at the same time he underwent organ donation surgery. New York Judge Colangelo directed that the sperm be held in storage until further order. Later the Judge issued an Order that the parents may use Zhu’s frozen sperm for any purpose, including “procreative purposes.”

Image Source: armytimes.com

Judge Colangelo said he found no restrictions in state or federal law. He cited a 2008 case where a court ordered destruction of a man’s sperm per a written request made during his lifetime, despite his widow’s claim to the sperm. Judge Colangelo also cited a 1993 case where a court held that a dead man’s estate representative didn’t have the right to destroy his frozen sperm in light of his written intent that it be stored for possible future use by his longtime girlfriend.

In this case, Zhu left no written will or other instructions regarding the use of his genetic material after his death. But Zhu’s parents testified that their son had dreamed of having several children. Zhu’s military advisor at West Point also testified that Zhu had said he wanted several children during mentoring sessions.

What do you think? Should parents or only spouses have the right to use the genetic material of deceased persons? Or should a person’s genetic material be destroyed once they die?