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US woman wins court approval to harvest dead fiancee's sperm

27 April 2009
Appeared in BioNews 505

A New York court has ruled in favour of Giselle Marrero, a woman who sought a court order allowing the extraction and preservation of her dead fiancée's sperm. Miss Marrero told the Bronx State Supreme Court that on the day before his death that Johnny Quintana, 31, had expressed his wish to have another child with her and she had made the application in pursuance of this wish.

For future conception to be an option, sperm must be extracted within 36 hours from death. Under US law, since the couple were unmarried, Miss Marrero had to obtain a court order for the procedure to take place. The order was granted just four hours before the time limit expired. On granting the application, Justice Howard Sherman stated that although there was very little precedent for such cases in New York, he found that there was no basis for refusing this application. In a similar case to that of Miss Marrero held in Texas earlier this month, a mother was granted permission to harvest her dead son's sperm for the prospect of future use.

Under UK law, similar cases hinge on the issue of consent. An oral expression from a donor is considered insufficient and the use and storage of posthumous gametes requires written consent. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act 1990 (as amended by the HFE Act 2008) requires a donor to receive proper counselling before his written consent is accepted. In the landmark case of Diane Blood in 1997, Mrs Blood was refused permission by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to use sperm taken from her dying husband due to a lack of written consent. After winning a court battle, however, she was allowed to travel abroad for artificial insemination using her dead husband's sperm.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Judge allows wife to harvest dead husband's sperm
NY Daily News |  18 April 2009
Judge OKs harvesting of dead husband's sperm
UPI.com |  18 April 2009
US woman gets dead fiancee's sperm
BBC News Online |  19 April 2009
US woman wins race to harvest dead husband's sperm
The Daily Telegraph |  19 April 2009
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