BBC Radio 5 Live Interview: harvesting dead men’s sperm for posthumous conception

25 January 2020

Louisa Ghevaert was delighted to join the debate on BBC Radio 5 Live on 21 January 2020 with Emma Barnett on whether law in the UK should be changed to enable the harvesting of dead men’s sperm for posthumous conception by strangers.

A recently published study in the Journal of Medical Ethics argues that men should be able to opt-in to donate their sperm for use after their death by strangers. The authors state “If it is morally acceptable that individuals can donate their tissues to relieve the suffering of others in ‘life-enhancing transplants’ for diseases, we see no reason this cannot be extended to other forms of suffering like infertility”. They say that this would help overcome ongoing sperm donor shortages in the UK, caused by increased demand and strict regulations around the donation process, and our reliance on imported sperm from Denmark and the USA.

During the BBC Radio 5 Live interview, Louisa was pleased to raise awareness about the complex and sensitive legal and wider issues around posthumous conception and sperm donation. She explained that sperm donation is not the same as organ donation. Organ donation saves or enhances a person’s life, whereas sperm donation helps bring about the conception of an individual.

Posthumous conception also raises uniquely complex issues around consent, biological legacy, legal rights, status and identity. Posthumous conception with a deceased loved-one’s gametes (eggs or sperm) creates a different legacy for donor conceived individuals compared with conception with a deceased arms-length sperm donor. The two are different and should not be conflated in this debate.

Louisa went on to say that there should be more focus on recruiting more living, healthy sperm donors as a better way of addressing sperm shortages in the UK and balancing the interests and donor information rights of donor conceived individuals.

Posthumous conception law is complex in the UK. Consent to the use of an individual’s eggs, sperm or embryos comprising their gametes (eggs or sperm) is governed by specific legal criteria under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (as amended).

Need an expert posthumous conception lawyer or fertility lawyer? If you would like to discuss your situation or you require specialist fertility and family law advice and assistance please contact Louisa by email  or by telephone +44 (0)20 7965 8399.



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