Fathering a Child After Death: Kosher in Israel

A family court in Israel has issued a decision that the sperm of a long-dead man may be used to inseminate a woman, who apparently never even met the father of her potential future baby.

According to this article in Yediot Achronot:

The young man had apparently banked his sperm before treatment for the cancer, which these days is not uncommon.

The article continues:

For reasons of religion and history, Israel is a strongly pro-natalist country. National Health Insurance, which every Israeli citizen must have, covers all fertility treatments, including In Vitro Fertilization for all women, including single women and lesbians, and the costs of embryo transfers, for instance.

But is using sperm from a long-dead young man taking it too far, especially since the woman who wants to be impregnated with it was not only not his wife, but apparently a stranger?

The Yediot article leaves several fundamental questions unanswered. What is the relationship between the woman who wants to become pregnant with the dead man’s sperm and his parents, for instance? Why does she want this particular man’s genetic material?

The Yediot article quotes a judge saying that there is no Israeli law covering this issue:

As technology improves, there are an increasing number of cases of such efforts to use sperm after a man’s death.

In some cases it’s banked before cancer treatments. In others, removed shortly after his passing.

This article gives a brief history of the practice of removing sperm from men who have recently died or are in a persistent vegetative state.

Whether or not it should be done, and who may use the sperm later, varies from country to country, and in many seems to be getting decided through case law rather than statute. It is an issue at the cutting edge of reproductive technology and in this, as in many issues, the law trails behind the technology.

In October, in France a court denied a woman’s request to be inseminated with the sperm of her husband, who had died of cancer three months after they married. The pivotal issue, according to this Agence France-Presse article seems to be the husband’s inability to give his consent.

It seems clear to me that, if the husband banked his sperm before he died, then his intention was to allow his wife to use it. But is the right to a dead man’s sperm limited only to his wife?

Last Spring a Texas woman petitioned a Texas county judge to allow her to have sperm removed from the body of her 20-year-old son, who had been killed in a bar fight. You can read the article from an Austin newspaper here.

In the Austin paper’s piece, the mother is quoted saying “I want him to live on. I want to keep a piece of him.”

I’m not sure what an Israeli court, or a court of Jewish law (a beit din) would have to say about that, but I say: Ewww.

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Fathering a Child After Death: Kosher in Israel

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