Assisted Reproductive Technology takes on a tragic, but ultimately hopeful, turn in Australia. After a woman’s husband-to-be died unexpectedly, she decided to remove his testicles in the hopes of having his child. According to a recent ABC News story, she launched an urgent court action the day after her fiancé’s sudden death, filing numerous sworn affidavits from friends who confirmed that the couple were indeed planning to start a family. The pair reportedly met in September 2015, were engaged a month later, and had already begun trying to conceive a child when he passed away in April.
Justice Martin Burns of the Queensland Supreme Court in Australia ruled that the testicles would need to be removed within 24 hours of death if the sperm were to remain usable. This is in accordance with medical literature which, according to Wikipedia, recommends that posthumous sperm extraction take place within that window. If this is done, the success rate for retrieving usable sperm is very high, approaching one hundred percent.
Lawyers representing the deceased man and his parents did not oppose the court application.
Salvaging the testicles will “permit mature reflection” about whether to proceed with fertilization down the road, the judge said. If the woman decides to proceed with an attempt to have a child, she will need to make another application to the court to green-light the procedure.
Generally speaking, the question of how long sperm can live depends on a number of factors. According to WebMD, the most important factor is where the sperm are located. On a dry surface, such as clothing or bedding, they are dead by the time the semen has dried. Inside a woman’s body, sperm can live for up to five days, and therefore pregnancy can occur if ovulation takes place within that time frame.
For a durable and responsibly-negotiated reproductive technology agreement, contact Shirley Levitan.
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Bill Rogers is a Toronto-based lawyer, journalist, and family law mediator