The Dead Creating the Living

On the 15th of October, Fabienne Justel, a 39-year-old French widow, was denied the chance to use the sperm of her late husband Dominique to be artificially inseminated. Dominique died three months after their June 2008 wedding of cancer, but had his sperm stored before his death.

Justel had hoped that she could obtain the sperm and take it to another country to be impregnated because artificial insemination using the sperm of a deceased partner is illegal in France. Permission has to be given for procedure by the donor, and in Justel’s case, her husband obviously wouldn’t be able to provide consent. Justel was  even denied the simple opportunity to obtain the sperm to take elsewhere.

Although this is a major setback for her, Justel wasn’t surprised by the ruling, and plans to appeal. She tells the AFP (the Agence France-Presse, kind of like the French version of the Associated Press), “…I want my husband’s sperm given back to me. I have no time to lose.” She hopes that France will lighten up on the issue of artificial insemination because other countries have less restrictions when it comes to allowing post-mortem sperm usage. This makes me think. Can you be impregnated by a deceased individual here in the States? What exactly are our rules?

According to the West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, “Now that sperm can be frozen for future use, a woman can be impregnated at any time, even after her husband’s death.” Creepy…But I guess that it is the best option for women with husbands or partner’s who know that they may not make survive certain sicknesses such as cancer. This law was tested in the case of Nancy and Edward Hart of Covington, Louisiana. Battling with cancer and finding that chemotherapy could leave him sterile, Edward froze some of his sperm for his wife Nancy. After he passed in 1990, Nancy was inseminated with his sperm and gave birth to their daughter Judith in June of 1990. Much to her surprise, the state would NOT announce Edward as her father due to the fact that Judith had been born more than 300 days after his death. Facing the chance that she would not be allowed to receive Edward’s social security benefits, Nancy sued the state of Louisiana. It was finally decided nearly four years after the birth of Judith that Nancy and her daughter were owed a lump sum and $700 in survivors benefits a month. Simple DNA evidence (that took four years!?) proved that Edward was the father of Judith, forcing the Social Security Administration to pay up.

Although I probably wouldn’t want to have a child by my partner if he were not alive to see he or she, I think that the French courts should allow Justel to have her husband’s sperm. She’s not taking it to commit some form of biological terrorism crime (let’s not be paranoid, now), but to keep Dominique’s memory alive. It may be a little creepy, but if this is what they both wanted (obviously since Dominique purposely had his sperm frozen…), then his last wishes should be honored. If it makes people happy, and these folks choose to take care of their offspring, then by all means…

For more information on artificial insemination, check out the E-Healthsite Resource to have it broken down in simpler terms. Be sure to leave your thoughts below…