Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Second Harvest

Did you hear about the lady who got a court order to preserve her murdered son's body so she could harvest his sperm?


And why did she want the sperm? So she could use it to impregnate a surrogate and get some grandbabies.


As someone who is interested in reproductive issues in general, I find the ethical dilemmas surrounding fertility and parenthood to be endlessly fascinating. I even wrote about it once after reading a (kind of old) book on the subject. Sadly, this is not the first I've heard of someone wanting to harvest the sperm of a dead son in order to get grandchildren. When I read this news story, I was a bit taken aback for a while, and had to figure out what I thought about it. My reaction (in this order) was:

pity for the potential grandchild
pity for the dead kid

In no part of my reaction did the feeling of "This is a great idea!" come up. I'm sorry, but violating your child's dead body in order to possibly carry on your genetic line is NOT OK. It's just not. Even if you have tons of money and resources to throw at a surrogate and a child, what gives you the right to bring a person into the world who's got one dead parent and one stranger for a parent? All to appease the sensibility of a neurotic grandparent? No. It's not OK. It's not ok to take the sperm from someone who never consented, or to take eggs from someone who never consented, and make a new person who is going to be born into a psychological mess.

The way I see it is that you get your own shot to make kids. If you have kids, and they don't end up having kids (for whatever reason - they die, they don't want kids, they can't have kids, whatever), TOO BAD. You raise children to become adults who make their own decisions about whether or not to reproduce. You are not automatically entitled to grandchildren, even if medical science will allow it.

Does this woman know whether or not her son would have wanted children? I know ultimately it shouldn't matter, since after he died what was his body just became a collection of cells. I am glad the woman opted to donate her son's organs so that other people can have better lives. I am NOT glad that the courts decided she should be allowed to take his sperm in order to make grandchildren for her.

I've heard of similar situations, where the significant other of a dead/dying man wishes to harvest his sperm in order to have his child. I find that to be kind of bothersome as well, but at least there was theoretically a decision made by the couple beforehand, or some discussion, as to whether or not to have children. I can understand wanting to have a living reminder of a dead partner. But once you're a generation removed, I'm sorry, but no dice. No person's DNA is indispensible enough that it should be postumously used to fuel someone's desire for grandchildren.

If you're really that desperate to have grandchildren, have you ever heard of this program called Big Brothers Big Sisters? Or considered becoming a foster parent? Or doing some other sort of service work with children who need parental figures? Because there are a heck of a lot of kids out there that need people like that already. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved. This, on the other hand? This I can only see as lose. It's lose for the dead guy (who didn't get to have any reproductive choice). It's lose for the potential child who will never know his or her parents. And it's lose for the grandparent who, lets be honest here, is grieving over losing her own child and is just looking to replace him with an updated model.

So, lady who just harvested her son's sperm in order to get grandbabies, to you I say: FAIL. You are wrong. This is not OK.


Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I think there are some dead body/sperm cases that I remember from the Bioethics/Healthcare Law days but they generally involve married partners. Another big source of contention is fertilised embryos but where the parties have split up and one of them wants access to them and the other is trying to block it via the courts.

It's fascinating to see the differences in the case law since it's all up to the individual states right now.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Oh yeah, INSANELY CREEPY, I agree. My sister has recently confessed that she can't imagine having kids and I can't see myself having kids without being married. Fortunately, my parents are not crazy. We've also all cheerfully and in great detail agreed to pull the plug on another via our living wills so I think it would be hard for any court to extend a rationale that either my sister or I would have that sort of treatment of our bodies in mind.

Yank In Texas said...

Yeah, it takes the whole grandmother thing to an entirely different level. Ewww. Just ewww.

Cilicious said...

lol Yank
"Ew" just kind of says it all.
These issues are fascinating, and while I support reproductive choice, this is ghoulish.
Bioethics are tricky. Remember the parents who had a second (or was it third) daughter in order to get a bone marrow donor for their eldest?
As I recall, that strategy turned out to be a success.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this takes the whole "pushy mother" thing to a whole new level. What is this woman thinking? OH YEAH: She's thinking of HERSELF. How incredibly, jack-assedly SELFISH.

I'm sure the idea to do this sprang out of her grief over losing her son, which is very sad - but a rational person would then realize this is a HUGE overstepping of decency and boundaries before actually taking it to the next level. Gross.

Anonymous said...

The grieving mother was on the Today Show this morning (I think with her attorney). Even hearing her voice her desire to "replace" her lost son with a grandchild creeped me out.