Should men be allowed to father children from the grave?

posthumousFertility treatment is usually marketed as assistance for an infertile partner. But a dead partner? Fertility from the grave may seem ghoulish, but it is happening in a number of jurisdictions, says Time magazine. In Australia, a woman was given permission in May to use her dead husband’s sperm after he was killed in a workplace accident last year. Laws on posthumous conception are only now being formulated, but it’s a tricky business. Many soldiers freeze sperm before a risky deployment so their wives can have their child if they die, and cancer patients increasingly do the same to ensure that they will have children.

But how about ensuring that elderly couples can have grandchildren? A couple is currently seeking this in Israel. How about ensuring that a single grandmother will have someone to remind her of her deceased son? In Texas, a woman is seeking eggs in Russia after her son was killed in a brawl. “That's much less straightforward,” says Theresa Erickson, the San Diego attorney for the pregnant California woman. “Creating a grandchild is much different than creating a child. Imagine what the child will think: My dad's dead and he never even knew I existed. It's a pretty sticky ethical and moral dilemma.”

Israel’s IVF regulation system is very liberal. Health insurance pays for as many IVF cycles are necessary to achieve the birth of two babies. In 2003 it wrote guidelines for posthumous reproduction that allow a partner or spouse to use a dead man’s sperm unless he had specified that was unacceptable.

“This notion of presumed consent, that we can assume that a man would want to have genetic children after his death, that was really pushing the envelope at the time in comparison with other countries,” says Israeli-born Vardit Ravitsky, of the Université de Montréal Faculty of Medicine. But the ministry refused to allow a man's mother or father similar access, concluding that parents have no legal standing regarding their children's fertility, “not in their lifetime, and certainly not when they are dead.” ~ TIME, Jun 3

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