An Easter Sperm Story: The Defeat of Death

This from the bioethics.net blog:

A woman’s 21-year-old son dies in a Texas bar fight. The bereaved mom wants the son’s clearly virile and tenacious genes to live on in the next generation and fights to have his sperm collected and stored so that someone may carry his seed. She says, on the one hand, that it was always his wish to have children and wants his wishes to be carried out. When the physicians refuse, mother Evans goes to the judge to get her son’s sperm out of his body and into a surrogate. She wants someone to carry her grandbaby. Now!

It has been reported today in Live Science, that a judge has ruled that the mama’s wishes (and purportedly son’s) have carried the day.

According to Livescience, a part of the judge’s reasoning was that

[t]here were other body [that is, body parts] harvesting that was going to take place, and I didn’t see why this additional body harvesting shouldn’t take place.

This is, indeed, a very strange case.  But I don’t think I agree wholly with the implicit sentiments of the anonymous bioethics.net blogger who comments on it:

My soap opera characterization above notwithstanding Nikolas Colton Evans’ death was a tragedy, but it does not justify harvesting his sperm so that his mother can create a replacement child and mislabel it as her son’s wishes to have his own children some day or her own wishes to be a grandparent.

Nikolas Colton Evans’ life was cut tragically short in a bar fight and he will never get to exercise his own reproductive choices in life. This does not mean his mother gets to exercise those choices for him after his death.

For sure, Colton’s death doesn’t justify anything.  But neither is it immediately clear what, exactly, is problematic about the procedure: as far as I can tell, he had wanted to have children, and so extracting and using his sperm is not contrary to any particular wishes he’d expressed.  Moreover, even if it had been, Colton himself somewhat drops out of the picture anyway – being dead means that he’s not an agent, and so doesn’t obviously pack the same moral punch as an agent.  His mother might have had all kinds of strange reasons for wanting to created a child with his sperm – and it’s quite possible than none of them is even remotely a good reason – but, unless she was harming or wronging anyone, it’s hard to see precisely why we should stop her.  (I don’t know: maybe her request sprang from grief and emotional turbulence.  That’s understandable.  Maybe it’s a silly request.  But silly doesn’t mean morally problematic…)

On the other hand, of course, I also don’t see that there’s any enormously good reason to force the doctors to go along with her wishes, or how the verdict would be enforceable anyway.  It seems that the way is legally clear for the procedure to go ahead if someone is willing to perform it – but, in the absence of any such person, then it’s rather a formal matter.

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