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Widow fights for right to use late husband's sperm to conceive

27 May 2008
Appeared in BioNews 459

A legal fight by a UK woman to have a child using sperm taken from her husband after his death is underway. The case highlights the need for regulatory clarity on the issue, which first came to prominence in 1995 when Diane Blood won the right to conceive using sperm from her comatose spouse.

Doctors were allowed to harvest the sperm as the unnamed 42-year old woman and her husband, from Twickenham. London, had just begun fertility treatment, a judge ruled. However, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) are questioning the legality of the sperm extraction process. The law currently requires the man's written consent, although a gynaecologist has confirmed that the couple were seeking fertility treatment before the man's death. 'Had the husband had the opportunity to give consent in writing, it is clear from the overwhelming evidence that he would have done so', said David Josiah-Lake, the solicitor representing the woman.

In Diane Blood's case, she was eventually permitted to undergo treatment abroad when the HFEA lifted its ban on the export of human gametes. She now has two children. She supports the current applicant, saying: 'If the couple were engaged on a joint venture to have a child and there is evidence from a conversation that the deceased would have wished the surviving partner to continue with that notwithstanding his death, then I see no need for that consent to be in writing. I cannot imagine life without my children. They bring joy to a great many people including my late husband's family'.

Vincent Cable, the widow's local Liberal Democrat MP, submitted an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, currently passing through parliament, which would allow the use of sperm in such cases in the UK, removing complications surrounding cross-border fertility treatments. He additionally proposed that a consultant's confirmation of the deceased's intention to have children should be sufficient evidence of consent.

'This amendment is quite narrowly drawn but would deal with a small number of specific cases where it is a woman's right to have a child by her partner. In this case the couple were already embarking on fertility treatment and it was clear her husband had it in mind to support her having a child in this way, so she could have a stronger case than Mrs Blood', said Cable.

The widow hopes that the HFEA will allow her to use her late husband's sperm to conceive a brother or sister for their only daughter. The HFEA said that they could not comment on the case as it was before court.

Widow fights for right to use sperm taken from dead husband
The Guardian |  19 May 2008
Widow launches legal fight for child using husband's sperm
The Daily Telegraph |  20 May 2008
13 November 2017 - by BioNews 
This film documents a Progress Educational Trust/University of Sheffield event which marked 20 years since widow Diane Blood won the legal right to conceive a child using the sperm of her deceased husband...
14 April 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The mother of a 21-year old Texan man who died following a fight outside a bar has obtained a court ruling in her favour allowing her to collect sperm from her son's body post-mortem. Nikolas Colton Evans died last March but although his mother had already...
13 October 2008 - by MacKenna Roberts 
The UK's High Court has ruled that it may have been unlawful for a widow to have removed her dead husband's sperm. Despite UK law requiring valid written consent for the storage and use of sperm, the 42-year-old widow obtained emergency Court permission to have sperm...
13 October 2008 - by Diane Blood 
This past week there have been reports of a case similar to the court case I won against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in 1997 (1,2,3). A woman was unexpectedly widowed when her husband underwent a routine minor operation in June 2007. Six days before that the couple...
29 January 2007 - by Katy Sinclair 
By Katy Sinclair: 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 women that he never knew. Soldier Keivan Cohen was shot dead in Gaza in 2002. His mother, Rachel...
13 February 2006 - by Diane Blood 
A recent report from the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) - the UK government's advisory body on genetics - 'Making Babies: Reproductive decisions and genetic technologies' is the latest in a string of reports designed to help the UK form new legislation on assisted reproduction. I was deeply concerned to read of this...
19 July 2004 - by BioNews 
A British woman is pregnant with her husband's child two years after he died from lung cancer. Diana Scott, who is 44 years old, was implanted with IVF embryos created using her late husband's sperm, which had been in frozen storage since before his death. The couple had been trying...
17 November 2003 - by BioNews 
Women in Israel will be able to harvest the sperm of their dead husbands, even if the men had not given their prior consent. But the new guidelines, released last week, also say that a widow will not be able to claim the sperm if the husband had clearly indicated...
31 March 2003 - by BioNews 
Diane Blood, the British woman who made legal history by fighting to have a baby using her late husband Stephen's sperm, and who last month won a court battle against the Government to have him named as the legal father, is another step closer to her goal. She has been...
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