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Parents of dead US cadet gain order to preserve his sperm

11 March 2019
Appeared in BioNews 990

The parents of an army cadet who died after a skiing accident in Westchester, New York, have been allowed to have his sperm preserved.

Peter Zhu was aged 21 and a cadet at the West Point US Military Academy when he suffered a spinal cord injury while skiing on 23 February 2019. He was declared brain dead a few days later. His parents urgently requested permission from State Supreme Court in Westchester County for sperm recovery and storage before Zhu's body was taken off life support. 

'In addition to retrieving Peter's organs to donate to others in need, we are seeking to retrieve sperm from Peter's body in order to preserve Peter's reproductive genetic material,' they said in their filing. 

Zhu was an only child, and according to his parents had always dreamed of being a father someday, having expressed a wish to have five children. 

'He often told us how he wanted children of his own one day and that he wanted to give us grandchildren,' they said in the filing. 

Granting permission to retrieve the sperm, Justice John Colangelo, who heard the request, said that the hospital did not object to the procedure, but doctors were 'hesitant' to go ahead without a court order 'because the hospital has never conducted a procedure like this before under these circumstances.'

The judge ordered that the sperm be stored, but further steps will be necessary before Zhu's parents can use it to try to establish a pregnancy.

A further court hearing on 21 March will discuss next steps and the family's lawyer, Kathleen Copps DiPaolo, told the New York Times that 'the case remains pending'. 

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