Dead man's sperm

An Israeli court gives parents permission to have a woman inseminated with their dead son's sperm.

By Catherine Price
Published January 30, 2007 7:49PM (EST)

Check this out: CNN reports that "an Israeli court has ruled that a dead soldier's family can have his sperm impregnated into the body of a woman he never met."

The man in question is Keivan Cohen, who was killed in 2002 in the Gaza Strip. As CNN reports, he was single and had no will, but his parents managed to have a sample of his sperm preserved. Only problem is, until his parents brought the issue to court, the only person allowed access to a dead person's sperm was a spouse. But his parents fought that rule, using testimony that included video recordings of Cohen saying that he wanted children, and eventually won the right to use the sperm to impregnate a woman chosen by the family.

According to Irit Rosenblum, the family rights advocate who represented the Cohen family, this is part of a bigger trend. She's quoted as saying that she knows of at least 100 Israeli men who asked that their sperm be preserved if they were to be killed in last summer's fighting and that she's heard of American soldiers giving sperm donations before heading into Iraq.

It's an interesting idea that one's bloodline could be continued -- as a result of parental intervention -- even if the sperm's creator were killed. In some ways, it just seems like a more specified form of sperm donation and I can imagine families being truly grateful for the opportunity to have their son's memory live on. Then again, it creates kids who never had a living father. And since the mothers in these cases would not have been married to (or necessarily romantically involved with) the fathers, struggles might arise over who gets legal custody (grandparents or mother?). On the other hand, there could be difficult arguments over whose responsibility it is to raise the child, especially when the grandparents die. Thoughts?


Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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