A baby boy has been born using sperm collected 48 hours after his fathers' death. The healthy child was conceived through IVF after a lengthy legal process in Australia, following the death of his father in a motorcycle accident in 2011.
The birth represents a technical and legal landmark in Australian assisted reproductive technology. The previous record for successful sperm harvesting from a deceased man was 30 hours, reports the Sydney Morning Herald, giving doctors significant concern about the quality of the sperm.
Professor Kelton Tremellen, who collected the sperm, said he initially had worries about the ethical and legal aspects of treatment: 'One reason was that I thought it was going to be a waste of time, and the other was I didn't know if it was the right thing to do.'
The use of sperm obtained posthumously is currently not permitted in Adelaide, where the mother is from, leading her to take the case to the Supreme Court of South Australia. After obtaining permission to use the sperm, further delays were caused by the mother having to travel to Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, where there is no legislative bar to posthumous assisted reproduction (see BioNews 736).
Professor Tremellen added: 'In the end I decided I would do it because I felt it wasn't a battle she should have to fight at that point when she had just lost her husband.'
The case was decided in the woman's favour without written consent from the deceased father because she was able to prove to the court that the couple had been planning to start a family prior to his death.
And, while the case has proved controversial, Professor Tremellen is of the opinion that there is good reason to allow treatment without written consent.
'The reality is that the vast majority of young men don't consider that they are going to die, and certainly not that their sperm might be used by their widows, so it's unreasonable to say it can't go ahead without written consent,' he said.
'If the woman is making a sound decision and can look after the child and has support from her family, I really don't think society or the law should get in the way.'