Reservists Ask for Their Sperm to Be Frozen if They Die

New Family Organization makes available a 'biological will' - a legal document that allows a man's sperm or a woman's eggs to be used after their death.

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Since the start of Israel's Gaza offensive, dozens of reservists have inquired about ways to store sperm so it can be used if they are killed in battle, Israel's leading family rights organization says.

New Family Organization makes available a "biological will" - a legal document that allows a man's sperm or a woman's eggs to be used after their death.

The organization has been approached by dozens of reservists, both married and single, says attorney Irit Rosenblum, New Family's founder and chief executive.

Usually the organization receives two to five queries a week about biological wills. But since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense last week, around 30 people have inquired. This always happens when reserve troops are mobilized, Rosenblum says.

"This time we've been approached mainly by married reserve soldiers, most of whom don't have children yet. They want to know about preserving their sperm in case they get killed in battle. Single people and reservists' wives also inquire," she says.

"The married ones want to know mainly about the technical aspects - whether they have to freeze their sperm in advance. The single ones ask about things like how they can make sure who the mother will be, and who will raise the child. Many people think their parents will take responsibility for raising the child, but they're wrong. The biological mother will raise it."

So far, around 600 people have signed the biological will drafted by Rosenblum in 2001. Some people leave instructions to take sperm or ova immediately after their death; this can be done up to 72 hours after death. In some cases they want their sperm or ova placed in a sperm or ova bank in advance.

The last option is usually suitable for patients undergoing treatments that could destroy or weaken sperm or ova, she says.

Public sperm banks tend to freeze sperm only for men who want to do so for medical reasons. Two private sperm banks charge for freezing sperm.

A 33-year-old reserve officer - a Technion-graduate computer engineer - had his sperm frozen in a hospital before being sent south.

"I have been called up for reserve duty and I don't know what will happen," he says. "It's important for me to think of my family's future in case something happens."

He and his wife have a 2-year-old boy, so "it's important to us both that he doesn't grow up alone. Also, in reserve duty, I work with equipment that could emit radiation, so the biological will is a good solution for me," he says.

He heard about this option from a friend. "One of our friends was killed, leaving his wife frozen sperm and such a will," he says. "I don't know if she used it, but she has an option to expand the family. I'm leaving clear instructions about what I want done about it."

So far 15 children have been born in Israel from a deceased man's sperm.

"Many women want it, because unlike with a regular sperm bank, the donor is identified and the child can be told about his father when he grows up," Rosenblum says.

"These women get a whole family for their child - grandparents, uncles and aunts. It's important to everyone to know about their genetic background. We know from studies that people who don't know their parents' identity are busy seeking it their whole lives," she says.

New Family has asked the Israel Defense Forces to cooperate in advising soldiers about signing a biological will.

"The IDF doesn't object, but it's unwilling to take an active role and inform the soldiers," she says. "When the Americans went to the Gulf War, soldiers were offered to freeze their sperm, and many of them did so. Here we haven't reached that stage yet. But I'll continue campaigning for it; I'm committed to this mission."

Israeli soldiers massing outside Gaza, praying. Credit: Nir Kafri
Soldiers massing next to Gaza on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. Credit: Nir Kafri

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