Sperm and egg donation are commonly practiced throughout the world. For women struggling with infertility, they may depend on a donated egg or sperm sample to conceive.
This type of donation is straightforward, with the donors giving expressed consent for their samples to be used for reproductive purposes.
However, a new, controversial type of reproductive process is emerging: posthumous reproduction.
This involves using eggs or sperm from a deceased donor to reproduce.
An example would be that of a young couple who had planned to have children. However, the husband becomes terminally ill before the couple can conceive. Therefore, the wife collects a sperm sample to use for conception after her husband has died.
These types of situations range from a consenting donation prior to dying to an emergency “collection” without prior consent.
Legislation is lacking in this obscure field, but a recent study has found public support for posthumous reproduction.
Almost 50% of the 1,000 people surveyed believed that a person should be able to request the retrieval of eggs or sperm from their dying spouse. Only 30% opposed.
People did believe that written consent was important to the process with 70% expecting mandatory written consent.
Interestingly, 50% of respondents would not want their eggs or sperm retrieved from themselves if they were dying.