It is a miracle

Recently I commented on the news about Israel where had been born the first child conceived from sperm of a young man who had died of cancer six years ago. The parents of the deceased and the woman who had agreed to carry a child to term, quickly managed to reach an agreement, but the difficulty was that the deceased had not left any directions about the disposition right of his genetic material after death. The well-known lawyer in the country, leader of the "New family", Irit Rosenblum, who had been dealing with the issues of so-called "biological testament” for many years, came to the aid of the family. The court took the side of the claimants and gave permission for the procedure.

Despite the fact that the practice of biological wills exists only in Israel, the experience shows that more and more people around the world are interested in the issues of posthumous donorship.

So last years in the USA, cases when relatives of the dead send a request to the hospital to give them the sperm of their native for later fertilization, have become more frequent. An urologist Larry Lipshults at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas states that the number of applications for posthumous donorship is constantly increasing, but the problem is in the lack of governmental regulation of this phenomenon. The occurring ethical issues make the protocols’ creating very complicated. For example, if the dead would have agreed for the use of his sperm? Who exactly has the right to the biological fluid of the deceased? Is it humanely to make a baby orphaned since birth?

Some institutions, guided by the principle like "people can’t be reproduced without their permission," require to provide a written consent of the deceased. But there is a huge number of requests coming when the death was sudden, and people simply didn’t have time to leave such an order.

Larry Lipshults held a public poll together with his colleagues to find out the attitude of society to the post-mortem donorship. According to the study, 85% of men who are clients of sperm banks agree on the use of their biological material after death.

The subject of “biological will” is closely related with a topic of the genetic material’s cryopreservation in cases when diseases’ treatment threaten human life. For example, Australian doctors have organized a campaign appealed to persuade young men suffering from cancer to provide a sperm sample before the treatment was started, that in the future they could experience the joy of fatherhood. According to experts, in addition to fertility preservation, this measure has a positive impact on the psyche of patients. And here's news from quite the same story: in America testing of the method that will help to keep fertility for cancer patients has been already started. The point is that spermatogonial stem cells- the precursors of sperm- are taken from testicles and get frozen. Years later the material can be thawed and implanted into the testicles, thereby testis will get capacity to produce full-fledged spermatozoons even if infertility is caused by side effects of the cancer treatment.

It’s still too early to talk with certainty about the effectiveness of this technique, as it is still under the testing. If there is such a need, for today it’s more reasonable to use the proven method of fertility preservation - cryopreservation of sperm, which allows patients to become fathers, even many years after. Incidentally, the record in this area again belongs to the Americans. Not so long time ago in the United States was born a girl, whose father had left his biological material quarter of a century ago. A similar record in freezing oocytes is 12 years.

As for the "biological wills," I have always said, and stand by my opinion that this matter is important and essential, but it’s a kind of sphere that provokes a lot of questions, not only ethical but legal as well. For example, if a child will be entitled to inherit the property of the father, with whom his mother had never met? It is clear that such delicate questions can’t be solved without governmental regulation, especially as the demand for such services around the world is constantly growing.


Well, words from The Queen’s songs are coming to my mind:

Test tube babies being born

Mothers, fathers dead and gone

It’s a miracle…