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Israeli court allows use of dead soldier's sperm

29 January 2007
Appeared in BioNews 393

After a four-year battle, an Israeli court has ruled in favour of a family campaigning for the right to use their dead son's sperm in order to inseminate a woman that he never knew. Soldier Keivan Cohen was shot dead in Gaza in 2002. His mother, Rachel, ordered that his sperm be retrieved in order to fulfil his wish to have a family, although he had not given explicit consent before his death to have his sperm used in this way.

The hospital refused to give her access to the frozen sperm without court approval, as legally only a spouse can make such a request. The family challenged the hospital's decision in court, claiming that it was their son's deepest wish to have children. The court viewed video material in which Keivan expressed his wish to start a family. The family claimed that it was their duty, as grandparents, to ensure that the insemination was carried out. They also assured the court that, after selecting a woman to have the child, they would restrict their role to that of grandparents.

No prior provisions existed in Israeli law regarding the permitted use of sperm extracted from the deceased, therefore this ruling sets a precedent. The move also comes despite a previous ruling three years ago, denying the rights of parents of the dead in such cases. Therefore, the ruling represents the first time that a court has approved the use of a deceased man's sperm to impregnate a woman he has never met.

The Cohen family advertised for potential mothers, and subsequently selected a 25-year old woman to be inseminated, from over 40 who came forward with offers of help. The woman wishes to remain anonymous. The family's lawyer, Irit Rosenblum, said that the court ruling meant that family lines could now be continued without the written consent of the male prior to death. Of the Cohen family she commented, 'It's a dream come true, on the one hand [the Cohens] lost a child, on the other hand they got some hope'.

In 1997 Diane Blood was denied fertility treatment in the UK in her pursuit to give birth to her husband's children posthumously. Mrs Blood was refused treatment because her husband's sperm had been extracted after he had lapsed into a coma, and therefore he had not given his express consent to its use. However, Mrs Blood travelled to Belgium to have treatment and now has two sons. In September 2003, after a five-year campaign, Mrs Blood won the right to have her late husband's name added to her children's birth certificates.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Court approves use of fallen IDF soldier's sperm for insemination
Haaretz.com |  15 January 2007
Mother wins dead son sperm case
BBC News Online |  19 January 2007
Soldier's case adds to IVF controversy
The Guardian News Blog |  24 January 2007
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