A hospital must retain the sperm of a deceased 15-year-old cancer patient for five years, so that his family can use it in the future to produce posthumous descendants, the Ramat Gan Family Court decided yesterday.
The verdict, the first of its kind in Israel, overruled the opinion of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. Mazuz had argued that as the teenager did not expressly state that he wished to produce children, and as he did not have a romantic partner when he died, there was no demonstrable public interest in preserving the sperm.
The teenager, an outstanding athlete from Ramat Gan, was diagnosed with sarcoma in 2006. He underwent six months of chemotherapy and traveled to the United States to get a lung removed and have an operation on his heart. During this time, some of his sperm was preserved by Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer - a standard medical precaution in any treatment than can damage sperm production. He then underwent radiation therapy to ensure that the cancer would not recur.
In April 2007, however, the disease was found to have returned. The teenager underwent another series of treatments in the U.S. and Mexico, but died several months later.
Last September, the teen's parents asked the court to acknowledge the preserved sperm as part of their son's estate and order the test tubes containing the sperm to be handed over to them, so that they could use it in the future to produce posthumous offspring from their son.
Their request was submitted by attorney Irit Rosenblum of the New Family organization.
The attorney general, whose opinion is routinely sought in such matters, argued that the posthumous use of sperm should only be allowed if the desire of the deceased to produce offspring can be proved.
The boy's lack of a romantic partner, Mazuz said, makes it impossible to assume that he desired to produce offspring in the absence of concrete evidence to this effect, and in the absence of a spouse, there is also no public interest in allowing the sperm to be used to produce posthumous offspring.
Finally, Mazuz said, acceding to the request would pave the way for parents to intervene in a highly sensitive and private area of their children's lives. The fact that the boy preserved his semen, Mazuz argued, in no way proves his desire to produce children after his own death, from a woman he will never meet.