Is Posthumous Semen Retrieval Ethical?

First Posted: Jun 11, 2013 12:12 PM EDT

Fertility treatments can provide amazing results for many couples who may not have otherwise been able to conceive a child. However, for some treatments in particular, ethical concern may prevent or confuse possible participants.

Particularly for women who may be grieving from the loss of their husband or partner, while it is possible to use their sperm following death, many health officials included wonder how ethically acceptable the treatment really is.

The Journal of Medical Ethics weighs the pros and cons of posthumous semen retrieval by examining various cases that dealt with requests several years ago.

The journal notes that while it is possible to retrieve viable sperm from a dying man or from a recently dead body, Posthumous semen retrieval "raises questions about consent, the respectful treatment of the dead body and the welfare of the child to be."

The sperm taken from a dead or dying man can actually be frozen for later use by a wife or partner to produce genetic offspring, but many are convinced that these requests should not be granted without convincing evidence that the dead man wanted his widow or partner to carry and bear his child. And even with consent, the welfare of the potential child has to be considered, according to researchers.

Requests for PMSR can come from either the wife or parents of a man who suddenly died. And similarly, requests can also come from living, terminally ill men who wish to preserve sperm in the case of death.

However, the procedure for gathering requests regarding this information can be particularly daunting. Especially for institutions who are trying to draft a protocol for certain situations, they face a number of ethical dilemmas, concerning questions such as the following: Has the deceased consented to have his sperm used for reproduction after he's gone? Could just anybody request to obtain his sperm? Is it in the best interest of the child to be brought into the world without having a father? Etc.

What everyone seems to agree on is that the man's wishes should be clear. "The core principle is not to reproduce anyone without their permission," said Arthur Caplan,head of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, via Live Science.

What do you think? 

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