After 21-year old West Point cadet Peter Zhu was fatally injured in a skiing accident in February, his parents had an unusual request: They wanted to save his sperm in order to continue the family lineage and name, and to help fulfill Peter’s long time dream of having five children.
Peter’s parents, Monica and Yongmin Zhu asked the hospital where their son was on life support to perform a sperm retrieval procedure. The hospital, although reluctant to do so, said it would perform the procedure if Peter’s parents obtained a court order. That’s exactly what they did. A NY State Supreme Court justice heard the motion and granted the request. However, the sperm is being held in storage pending the outcome of the next court hearing (scheduled for March 21, 2019.)
This wasn’t the first case of sperm being retrieved in such a situation; that actually occurred in 1980, with the first child born from such preserved sperm born in 1999. However, it is somewhat uncommon for a deceased person’s parents to request and obtain approval to harvest sperm or eggs. In 2018, the Ethics Committee for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine issued guidance about retrieving sperm or eggs posthumously for future reproductive purposes.
Generally, such requests are considered within ethical boundaries if the deceased person had provided prior written authorization for the procedure, or if the request is made by a surviving spouse. It’s a different situation when parents request retrieval of their deceased child’s sperm or eggs, because parents are not typically directly involved in their child’s efforts to reproduce.
Zhu was not married. While he was an organ donor, he did not leave written instructions requesting or authorizing the retrieval of his sperm after death.
Nobody knows for sure what the court will decide at the next hearing. However, there is legal precedent for authorizing parents to use their deceased child’s sperm, including a 2007 Iowa case in which a young man’s parents were allowed to retrieve and use his sperm to continue the family line after his unexpected death.
If you are interested in learning more about assisted reproduction needs contact our office today. We are dedicated to drafting comprehensive surrogacy, egg, sperm and embryo donation contracts as well timely and thorough parentage orders. No matter what your legal needs may be, we are here for you.