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Sperm extracted from fatally injured man for partner's use

23 July 2018
Appeared in BioNews 959

A UK judge has granted permission for a woman to have her dying husband's sperm harvested, to use in an attempt to conceive following his death. 

Mrs Justice Gwynneth Knowles heard that the unnamed couple had been actively trying to conceive at the time of his injury, including through fertility treatment. She ruled in favour of allowing an expert to perform the extraction shortly before the man's death. 

Ayesha Vardag, representing the wife, said: 'This enlightened and constructive ruling by the Court of Protection, the cooperative approach of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the compassion and dedication of the medical teams involved has given a ray of hope to a young widow and the chance to complete their family in the future as the husband had wished.'

The woman made an urgent application to the Court of Protection following her husband's sudden traumatic brain injury, from which he later died. The Court of Protection exists to make welfare decisions on behalf of people who are unable to do so for themselves.

The application was supported by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the Government's independent regulator overseeing fertility treatment and research. Lawyers representing the husband argued that it would also have been in line with his wishes, a sentiment shared by the man's doctors.

Although uncommon, there is national and international precedent for the posthumous use of an individual's sperm in conception, famously beginning with Diane Blood in the 1990s. In 2014, a woman from Birmingham was granted the right to store sperm from her dead husband for use in conception in the future, while in Australia a similar case occurred in 2018 (see BioNews 955). In India and China, there have even been examples of grandparents being granted the right to use frozen sperm and embryos from deceased grandchildren in IVF with surrogates (see BioNews 938).

Vardag suggested that this ruling would have a lasting effect by forming a precedent that would help other couples in similar situations in the future, creating a positive legacy for the deceased individual. 

Justice Knowles is to further clarify the reasoning for her decision in a written ruling to be released in the near future.

Dying man with brain injury has sperm extracted in bid to allow wife to become pregnant
The Independent |  14 July 2018
Sperm taken from fatally injured man
The Times |  17 July 2018
Woman gets dying husband's sperm in court ruling
Sky News |  14 July 2018
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