This is not an April Fool’s headline or a Halloween article in the Onion. The mother of a man who died as a result of a criminal assault, successfully petitioned a Texas judge to allow a posthumous sperm retrieval so that she can become a grandmother. According to the Austin American-Statesman:
Travis County Judge Guy Herman signed the order to preserve the body of Nikolas Colton Evans, 20, who died days after being severely assaulted.
The man’s mother, Marissa Evans, requested the injunction so that a specialist can obtain the specimen.
Marissa Evans, 42, said she plans to use the sperm to have a grandchild through a surrogate mother. She said her son had planned to have three children, who would be named Hunter, Tod and Van.
“I want him to live on,” Evans was quoted by the newspaper as saying. “I want to keep a piece of him.”
Evans said she sued after hospital officials and representatives from an organ donation agency refused to extract her son’s sperm.
I’m sorry, but this is just macabre. While I consider myself an unwavering advocate for assisted reproduction, there are limits. I hope that Ms. Evan’s desire to create a grandchild is merely a result of the shock and trauma from losing her son. While the hospital may be obligated to preserve the body to allow the posthumous retrieval, nothing can compel a surrogate agency, surrogate, doctor and/or attorney from refusing to assist this grief-stricken mother.
By the way, Ms. Evans would not be the first parent who has attempted to create grandchildren after the loss of a child. More than 10 years ago, a number of professionals and agencies, including myself, were approached by Howard and Jean Garber. The Garbers had lost their daughter, Julie, to leukemia. Prior to losing her battle, Julie Garber had created embryos with the use of donor sperm. Her plan was to use those embryos if she survived her cancer treatment. When she did not, her parents “inherited” the embryos and sought to have them transferred into a surrogate so that they could have grandchildren. While I refused to assist the Garbers (as did almost every professional they approached), eventually they found a surrogate who agreed to carry their dead daughter’s embryos. The Garbers’ attempt failed as the IVF transfer was ultimately unsuccessful.
Cases like the Garbers and Ms. Evans’ highlight the myriad of ethical dilemmas that arise when science and the law converge. Hopefully clear-thinking professionals will implore Ms. Evans to seek grief counseling and abandon her attempt to create a grandchild. After all, how fair is it to the child to be intentionally brought into the world as an orphan?
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