Israeli parents ask court to allow use of dead son's sperm

A case in Israel is raising significant ethical and legal issues. Tomer Zarchin reports on

Parents who contributed the organs of their dead son are now demanding to use his sperm to bring a child to the world. “If we were entitled to donate the organs of our son why are we not entitled to make use of his sperm in order to bring offspring to the world?” Mali and Dudi Ben-Yaakov from Atlit, parents of Ohad who was killed in an accident at the age of 27 in September, asked yesterday.

The parents of Ohad Ben-Yaakov embarked on a precedent-setting legal battle yesterday when they appealed to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein with a request to use the sperm of their son, taken following the fatal accident.

The case is unique because Ohad did not leave behind written or verbal instructions on using his sperm, and his parents embarked on their legal struggle without a woman who would serve as the mother of the child. At this stage their claim is to ownership rights of the sperm.


There may be precedent for treating frozen sperm as property, but how do you reconcile the privacy rights of the dead with the wishes of those who have legal right to make decisions about harvesting sperm? The parents’ argument that if they can decide what to do with his organs and whether to harvest his sperm, they should be permitted to decide to use the sperm seems somewhat logical. But are they acting as neutral executors of his estate or medical proxy trying to implement his wishes, or are they, in the absence of stated wishes on his part, just substituting their own judgement and wishes for his?

In other coverage of this case, The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed David Heyd:

David Heyd, professor of philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said the Ben-Yaakovs’ case was ”ethically shaky”.

”The right to procreate belongs to parents. The parents of a dead child cannot use his sperm for their own purpose in becoming grandparents,” he said.

What do you think should happen in this case?

h/t, @dgmacarthur via @kashhill

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