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