Conception after death
The ethics of a mother’s use of her dead son’s sperm
- By: Ohad Oren, Susan Bewley
An Israeli court recently ruled that a dead soldier’s parents could use their son’s sperm to impregnate a woman he had never met.1 Keivan Cohen, who was wounded by a Palestinian sniper in Gaza, was brain dead in 2002, and later died. His mother, a former nurse, ordered sperm retrieval to fulfil his wish to have a family. She made the request despite the absence of any advance directive confirming whether Cohen wanted to father a child after death. He left neither a widow nor a girlfriend. At the time, there was no specific legislation in Israel with regard to sperm collection from the newly dead, though two previous court proceedings had permitted widows posthumous extraction and preservation of sperm. The doctors did the extraction despite uncertainty about the ethics of proceeding on behalf of a parent.
The 2003 Israeli attorney general’s guidelines identify no harm in allowing posthumous