• Wed, Jan 15 - 4:00 pm ET

I Feel For You, But You Can’t Make Babies With Your Comatose Fiancé

sperm-cell

A woman in the UK, named only as AB, has launched a legal battle to earn the right to harvest the sperm of her fiancé, who is in a persistent vegetative state.

According to The Telegraph, AB’s partner, “P” is a wealthy man who is being kept medically-alive after a series of devastating heart attacks in December 2013. He is currently under a DNR under and could, doctors say, die at any moment. Because of that reason, AB obtained an emergency court order to carry out a harvesting procedure for P’s sperm. That emergency order was struck down by a UK high court and AB is currently challenging that decision.

AB says P had proposed to her and they had extensive talks about starting a family. She also says that he would give his written consent had he known “he would be in his current state.” But because of provisions of the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act in the UK, P’s express consent is required. And obviously, he is not in a state to be giving consent about anything to do with his health or body, especially his sperm.

Man, what a sad situation. I totally understand this woman’s deep desire to have the biological children of the man she loves. I really, really do. My heart goes out to her and the way she must be mourning her life and future with P. But I think, unequivocally, that harvesting sperm from a man who is in a vegetative state is a serious infringement on his reproductive rights. Using any man’s sperm without his knowledge or consent is morally wrong.

No matter what the couple’s plans were or what his wishes might have been, the fact of the matter is that P cannot give consent for his biological matter to be taken from his body and used in the conception of possible children. Not now. Not tomorrow. Probably not ever, considering his medical condition. And who knows? Maybe, if he knew the situation he was in, he wouldn’t even want to conceive children who would never know their father as a walking, talking, vibrant man.

P’s body, even though it is unresponsive, is still his own. There’s a difference between performing medical procedures necessary to keep him alive and performing a sperm harvesting procedure in order to use his sperm for future children. (Side note: What does a sperm harvesting procedure on a person who is in this kind of state look like? Would AB be there for it? Does P’s family consent to the procedure? I have many questions!)

This case reminds me so much of that of Texas woman Marlise Munoz, who is pregnant, brain-dead, and has been kept on a ventilator, against the wishes of her family. Marlise, who was an EMT, also wished not to be kept on life support. But the Fort Worth hospital where Marlise’s body lays will not let her die due to her fetus. In Marlise’s case, there is already a fetus, whose welfare is being put above the wishes and the constitutional rights of an adult woman. In P’s case, the potential for biological children is infringing on his own right to consent, since he’s in a persistent vegetative state.

Of course, in the case of P, we don’t know for sure whether or not he would want to have his sperm harvested. But neither P nor Marlise had their express wishes in writing, which makes things sticky for everyone involved, including their loved ones, the hospitals, and the legal system.

Apparently P is now in a slightly better condition than he was when AB initially tried to get his sperm harvested, but even if AB does manage to get permission to harvest the sperm, it’s illegal in the UK to take, store, transport or use a man’s sperm via IVF without his consent. She would have to go abroad to use it to get pregnant.

The case is expected to be heard in High Court in February. AB’s lawyer, Richard Alomo:

”There is clearly a public interest in having this issue settled once and for all. She (AB) wants to obtain a decision she genuinely and sincerely believes her partner would want.”

As much as I hope the court rules against AB’s effort to harvest sperm from P, I also truly hope that she finds the peace of mind she needs to come to terms with the fact that her fiancé, and the life they shared (and hoped for) is now gone.

Photo: Getty Images

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  • pixie

    That is sad and heartbreaking, but ultimately, I also side with the British legal system. It is still his body while he is still alive, even if he is not in a state to either consent or refuse. I really do understand that she must be devastated that the life she envisioned will probably never happen and wants a reminder of him in a tiny bundle of joy, but personally I believe it is still his body and she has no right to make decisions for him if there is no written legal consent that was made before he ended up in this condition.

    And the husband of Marlise Munoz is suing the hospital, so hopefully her wishes and the wishes of the family will soon be made real.

    • jo

      With Marlise Munoz, I have to wonder if she and her husband specifically discussed being taken off life support while pregnant, because her wishes in this situation may be different. I have told my husband numerous times that I do NOT want to my body kept alive if I am brain dead. BUT, if I was pregnant, that would be a game changer, even if I wasn’t far along. And I’d be pissed as hell if my husband pulled the plug and didn’t give the baby a chance. Go ahead and use me as an incubator, because if I’m truly brain dead, it won’t bother me.

      Regarding this article, I agree that if he can’t consent they shouldn’t harvest his sperm.

    • pixie

      That is true, her decision might have been different. And though I’m sure the child is not unwanted, i think as a paramedic he realizes its chance of survival or being healthy and not in pain are low considering it was without oxygen for about an hour, was shocked when the mother was shocked and absorbed the same strong drugs the mother was given. Plus the fact that a heartbeat doesn’t necessarily mean the baby is alive.

      Not getting into a pro-choice/pro-life debate, but I think at this point the father is mourning both and without medical intervention the baby would have been 100% dead as well.

    • Psych Student

      The Marlise Munoz story prompted me to discuss what with my wife what decisions I would like her to make (I’ll be the one carrying the babies in the future). It’s an important thing to talk about, but it never occurs to talk about things like this because it seems so random.

  • Alexandra

    Yes that is sad and heartbreaking, however, I hate to be cynical here, but is it just a teeny bit possible that this “wealthy man” did not provide for her in his will maybe was waiting for marriage, and if she had his baby she’d get more money? I KNOW I KNOW PLEASE I’M NOT A TROLL DON’T HATE ME! But I’d be interested to know how old he is and how old she is before I got all emotional about this.
    Yikes modern times is scary!! :)

    • Andrea

      Read the rest of the comments. You are not alone in this line of thinking.

  • Mystik Spiral

    When I read that he’s wealthy, I immediately thought “of COURSE she wants his baby, so she has a biological reason to get his money”.

    I think I’ve been spending too much time on the internet.

    • Alexandra

      OMG I just wrote the same thing! Good, thought it was only me. Plus I’m picturing like a 70 y.o. man (multiple heart attacks) with like a 30 y.o. or younger woman….my horrible internet brain LOL
      Of course it may not be this way, but…..

    • Mystik Spiral

      Haha, we are totally on the same page on this one.

    • Véronique Houde

      And now we all know for sure that there will be a Law & Order SVU episode on this :D

    • Kate

      Regular law and order, season 9, episode 6. What can I say?

    • elle

      It doesn’t make me feel good about myself and I’m not proud of it, but that’s my immediate thought too. I guess I’m just very cynical and untrusting

    • Andrea

      You are not the only one.

    • pixie

      I completely missed the part that said he was wealthy. I don’t change my stance at all, since I believe it is his body and therefore she has no right to “harvest sperm” regardless, but it changes a bit of my view on the woman.

      Dammit, internet, why you make us all so cynical?

    • candyvines

      Or watching too much Law & Order. JK, no such thing.

    • guest
    • candyvines

      Ha, thanks!

    • LiteBrite

      I thought the same thing. I don’t feel good about myself about that, but I still thought it.

    • EX

      Yep. Right there with you. Not that I’m proud of that. What can I say? I guess we’re all cynics.

    • Jessie

      You aren’t alone, I thought the exact same thing. As much as I’d like to hope it isn’t the case, my experience wih humanity tells me that it is the most likely scenario, sadly.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    Yeah…assuming she really is doing this out of love, I totally understand where she’s coming from. But, if I were brain-dead, I would absolutely not want my wife to harvest my eggs. I would want her to mourn me for an appropriate amount of time, then get the fuck over me, find someone else amazing to love and share a life with and make babies with. Preferably someone who wouldn’t mind me haunting them every so often.

  • Andrea

    I’m thinking her “desire” has way more to do with how “wealthy” he is and a lot less to do with making a family with a dying man.

  • Teleute

    Please learn the distinction between brain death and a coma.

    Seriously, Mommyish editors — how do you keep letting this shit slip by? The guy isn’t brain dead. Just read the article your blogger linked to.

    • CMJ

      Probably because they are human…

      It’s really easy to correct an author without sounding like a jerk.

    • Teleute

      The author lists the guy as both brain dead and comatose, when in fact he is in a persistent vegetative state. It’s this complete lack of understanding which led to the whole Jahi McMath fiasco!

    • Teleute

      A direct quote from Eve:

      “At the end of the day, its my job as editor to fully understand the entire situation before I chose to publish something.”
      http://www.mommyish.com/2014/01/14/polyamorous-pregnant/

      This isn’t the first time Mommyish articles have failed to make the distinction.

    • CMJ

      Yes, I understand that. No one’s saying you can’t point out mistakes. People do it here all the time.

      And, once again, they probably “let the shit slip by” because they are human. And, also once again, it’s not that hard to correct someone without sounding like a jerk.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      Oh god I’m bring quoted. Why can’t you pick a better quote from me? Like the time I talked about ham a lot

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      Or the time we talked about anal sex all day. That was waaaay more interesting.

    • Teleute

      Eve, don’t take this as a personal attack. It just horrifies how people continually fail to make the distinction between life and death — especially after the Jahi McMath circus.

      A person in a coma is in a continuous state of unconsciousness from which they’re unable to wake. They have no awareness of their environment, and their responses to external stimuli are minimal to absent.

      Someone in a vegetative state may exhibit signs of consciousness and cycle between sleep and wakeful periods. Generally speaking, a vegetative state will be diagnosed as “persistent” after four months. A permanent state of vegetation may be diagnosed after twelve months, although the guidelines are slightly different if the cause is non-traumatic.

      Brain death is precisely that — death. And death is NOT a medical condition.

      In terms of this story, the ethical considerations between harvesting genetic from a living person and from a corpse are vastly different.

    • Guest

      Maybe you should read more carefully before spouting off about the author’s error. I just read the article, it states the woman was informed that the man was in a PVS. A persistent vegetative state is vastly different than a coma or brain death. Coma- brain has sustained significant injury, however the whole brain can still function. PVS- the upper brain is significantly damaged or dead, but the brain stem is still functional. Brain death- both hemispheres and the brain stem have ceased function, with no blood flow or oxygen. See? It isn’t difficult to understand how the author unintentionally inserted the wrong adjective or medical diagnoses.

    • Teleute

      As I’ve already stated:

      “The author lists the guy as both brain dead and comatose, when in fact he is in a persistent vegetative state. It’s this complete lack of understanding which led to the whole Jahi McMath fiasco!”

      Perhaps YOU should read a little more carefully.

    • Guest

      My apologies, your correction must have popped up while I was replying and I did not see it.

    • teleutebitch

      Eat a dick.

    • SusannahJoy

      That actually drives me crazy too. I’ve had the misfortune of knowing someone who was in a coma before being declared brain dead. The differences are subtle, but they are very, very important.

    • Teleute

      It’s the difference between life and death. I don’t think that’s very subtle.

  • http://sarahhollowell.com/ Sarah Hollowell

    oh god I understand her grief but this makes me feel so, so, so gross

  • Kelly

    I think it should be up to his next of kin. Whoever would be able to make serious medical decisions like choosing to terminate life support should also be able to make this decision.

  • Fuzzy Dolphin

    Gold digger alert!!!

  • Kay_Sue

    No. Just no. Reducing this man to his baby batter at this point seems so dehumanizing to me. I understand her grief, but it’s no excuse to trample on his physical autonomy. Many, many, many people lose their partners, many of them before they have children, and they manage to go on with their lives and heal. I feel for her (assuming her reasoning is true and she is not just after the dolla dolla bills yo), but harvesting this man’s sperm would be wrong.

    • aCongaLine

      (sorry about the vote down, I meant to hit reply and got smacked by a toddler)

      Very well said. I agree.

    • Kay_Sue

      I know that feeling, actually! ;)

  • Lackadaisical

    He is wealthy, they aren’t married yet so if theoretically he hasn’t written a will the money will go to other people unless they have a kid together? I wonder why the courts would prevent her harvesting sperm and not take her word for it that he would consent …

    I sympathise, and it is probably heartbreaking for her to plan a family with the man she loves and end up with neither. However it is also his body and we get (I think rightfully) angry when someone tries to decide the fate of our womb for us so we ought to respect the rights of a feller’s meat and two veg (so long as the meat and two veg is not forced upon us).

  • Romylove

    Let’s clear something up real quick. “But the Fort Worth hospital where Marlise’s body lays will not let her die due to her fetus. In Marlise’s case, there is already a fetus, whose welfare is being put
    above the wishes and the constitutional rights of an adult woman.”

    That is misleading. What it should say is: “The Fort Worth hospital where Marlise’s body lays is not legally allowed to remove her from life support due to a Texas law which places the welfare of a fetus above the wishes and the constitutional rights of an adult woman.”

    • CrazyLogic

      I remember reading that the doctors were actually not happy about it because the fetus has a high change of major brain damage. I don’t remember where though.

  • Véronique Houde

    Let’s imagine a role reversal: A grieving husband’s wife is in a vegetative state, and they had always discussed having children. He insists on having his wife’s body inseminated with his sperm so that she can carry a child for him… Yeah, that’s never going to happen! It really is no different the other way around – as much as an invasion to insist on taking a man’s sperm without consent.

  • Véronique Houde

    I just remembered an episode of A Baby Story (or one of those TLC birthing shows… I know I know, I was pregnant and bored.) where, minutes after her husband’s death, had the doctors harvest some sperm so that she could conceive her dead husband’s children. I remember being so disturbed by her attitude, her demeanor and the significance of her actions. It took her a few years after his death to succeed at having his children… I just think it’s soooo wrong…

    • Bethany Ramos

      On TLC??? That is mind boggling.

    • Véronique Houde

      I know… I was slightly traumatized by it. And her whole family was gushing at the “beauty” of it… :S

    • pixie

      That is…disturbing.
      Did no one really tell her that?

  • DatNanny

    I find this incredibly sad. No, I don’t think his sperm should be harvested without his consent, but I understand this woman so much. And I can completely believe they had a plan for babies and she genuinely just wants to raise the baby of the love of her life.

    My partner and I are planning on trying later this year. We also very recently went through a horrible health scare for him – six weeks of testing and waiting and thankfully he’s fine. Through that time, of course, there was a lot of thinking of the worst, and one option if we got the worst scenario would have been to start trying immediately, so I’d have his child to raise no matter what. If I was in this woman’s situation, would I feel the same way she does? With my partner, I could see him giving consent if he could.

    Thankfully, we aren’t in that situation. I do think the courts made the ethical decision. But I feel strongly for this woman.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    Unfortunately I think this is a situation where you MUST know beforehand what you’d want to do.
    My partner and I have BOTH written our wishes down in terms of being in a vegetative state, with regards to abortion, choosing between my life and a child’s life if I were pregnant.
    We have also covered this side of things, if I wanted a child and he was unable to consent.
    Whether or not it would stand up in court remains to be seen if, god forbid, something did happen, but at least we have SOME sort of plan, just in case.

  • Pingback: Reproductive Technology Is Awesome Because It's Giving Us Sperm Robots

  • CrazyLogic

    Honestly, my first hope is that he recovers…but I’m an idealist like that.

  • CrazyLogic

    I told my brother about this story. He is now talking with his girlfriend about if she would do this and if he should just make the legal document.

    My family is strange.