Do you think harvesting sperm on a dead person is a good idea?Kathleen Nolan "Live Sperm: Dead Bodies."

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question is purely a matter of opinion and because of the nature of this subject, your opinion should be partially based on the arguments in the article but mostly based on your beliefs.  The biggest issue with this (like many other recent scientific breakthroughs) is that it asks the question, "Are humans trying to 'play God' (or Mother Nature)?"

My biggest objection to the harvesting of sperm (or eggs for that matter) from a deceased person, is that the parent is no longer alive to act as the responsible party for that little piece of genetic code, which may become a human baby.  The legal complications that would arise if such a scientific/medical practice became common essentially boil down to battles over a human life which nature (or God) might argue was never meant to be born in the first place.  Unfortunately, the slippery slope then would ask, "If it is wrong to harvest sperm from dead bodies, is it wrong to combine sperm and egg in test tubes to help ensure that someone unable to conceive has a chance at carrying a baby?"  You can see that there is almost no limit to how far this argument can be drawn out.

In this case, my simple answer to your question is no, I do not think harvesting sperm (or eggs) from a dead body is a good idea.  I also believe that the author's main argument that this practice has brought "comfort" to the deceased person's survivors, is weak, at best.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think it's possible to "harvest" sperm from a dead person. I think what you mean is whether it's right to use stored sperm after the donor has died. This issue is so new that I'm not sure yet how I feel about it. I can see both positives and negatives to it. Positives: A woman whose husband died before they could have children could use his stored sperm to try to have a child. Negatives: A woman whose husband died before they could have children could use his stored sperm to try to have a child.

Forgive me for being flippant. If a couple so wanted a child that they would store his sperm for future use, then who am I to tell the woman that she can't have it? But if she intends to have that child so that she can get his death benefits or get higher benefits, then I stomp my foot down and say no. A child should be conceived, whether naturally or in the laboratory, in and for love, not for money or other benefits. I guess I have formed an opinion on the issue after all!

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

On the surface there is a sort of knee-jerk revulsion to the idea of obtaining sperm from the dead; but I'm not so sure it should be dismissed out of hand. Suppose it is a young husband who had hoped to soon be a father? Suppose further that he is an only son? Why is it so repulsive to wish to preserve his physical heritage as would have happened had he remained alive?

There are any number of anonymous sperm donors who have brought untold happiness to those who could not conceive on their own. I'm not sure this is that much different, as long as strict guidelines were imposed. I would hate to think that at 62 I would be deprived of a grandchild were my son to die--God forbid--before he had offspring of his own to carry on the family line. Anyone who has a grandchild will understand.

justaguide eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Retrieval of sperm is possible only for a short time duration after death. After 24-36 hours sperm extracted from a dead person can no longer be used for artificial insemination. The topic of discussion should then be whether sperm extraction from a person who is brain dead or in a permanently vegetative state should be allowed.

I think a law in Israel that makes it legal for this to be done if it can be proved by the person's married partner that he took steps towards parenthood while he was alive goes a long way in solving the ethical dilemma. If the person could not pass on his genetic information and have a child while he was alive, and it is possible for him to do so after death, the option can be kept open.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not think that there is any problem with harvesting sperm from a dead body, though I think that it would only be useful in a very limited set of circumstances.  The only purpose that I can see for this is if a woman's husband dies unexpectedly and she wants his sperm so she can have a baby of his.  In such a situation, I see nothing wrong with harvesting his sperm.  We would assume that it is her right to have a baby with her husband and there is no real difference (morally speaking, in my opinion) between her getting pregnant the natural way and being impregnated by his sperm after he is dead.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I always wonder where the so-called libertarians are when this issue comes up.  This is a very personal choice, and I believe that the wishes of the immediate family, namely, the spouse, of the deceased must be respected.  While the dead cannot respond for themselves, of course, I would imagine, if they were alive, they would rather their loved one make that decision as opposed to the government.

I am also not opposed to having a clause in your will that stipulates whether you want this allowed or not.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If a person is clinically dead, then only their wishes as stipulated in legal documentation should be considered.

Thinking globally, there are millions of babies who could be given care and attention by a person wishing to have a child. This is certainly a very personal issue, but perhaps consideration needs to be beyond genetics to human life itself. Why focus on creating children when there are already plenty of needy kids waiting for families?

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with clairewait on this one. While many children are born without two parents, it is not the ideal. I can only imagine the pressure of living up to some romanticized notion of a son who is supposed to be just like his father or carry the weight of the family namesake and legacy. It seems to me the idea is designed to somehow assuage the grief and loss of a parent but does not take into account the negative impact on the child.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that harvesting the sperm of a dead person should be left to the surviving wife. If , as someone else mentioned, it is a young couple and the wife would like to have the opportunity to have a child from the sperm of her husband it would and acceptable practice to harvest the sperm.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I must say that I am always shocked by this idea. I understand the reasoning, sometimes, but it does not change the fact that it seems to be pushing the boundaries of science and religious theology too far. Just my thoughts!

miss-bhengu | Student
Do you think harvesting sperm on a dead person is a good idea?

Kathleen Nolan "Live Sperm: Dead Bodies."


beefheart | Student

No. Unless the dead person gave specific permission prior to their death, which would be wierd, because if they wanted to donate sperm for reproduction, they could have simply donated sperm before their death.

Apart from all the moral implications, this could relate to the issue of inheritance. By creating a daughter/son of the dead person you can redirect that person's wealth.

You can't force a dead person to have children irrespective of their will.

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