Should Parents Have The Right To Save Their Son’s Sperm?

West Point cadet Peter Zhu died at age 21 in February in a tragic skiing accident. His parents now can attempt to continue his legacy and their family lineage after a New York judge said they can use his frozen sperm to produce a child.
New York Supreme Court Judge John Colangelo issued his ruling last week, two months after he granted Yongmin and Monica ZhuYongmin and Monica Zhu’s request to save the sperm.

“Peter’s parents are the proper parties to make decisions regarding the disposition of Peter’s genetic material,” Colangelo wrote. “At this time, the Court will place no restrictions on the use to which Peter’s parents may ultimately put their son’s sperm, including its potential use for procreative purposes.” READ MORE

Oh boy, here we go again. By that I mean this reminds me of the case of the 60 year old woman who wanted to use her dead daughter’s frozen eggs to give birth to her own grandchild, which I wrote about HERE. My feeling then is exactly the same now. At least, in that case, they allegedly had the daughter explicitly saying before she died that she wanted her mother to have access to her eggs, but there is no such assurance from the late Mr. Zhu that he would actually want his parents to use his sperm to create another child or children after his death.

Again this feels like more of an ego thing then genuine love for children. This isn’t easy to say, as I’m sure that Mr. and Mres. Zhu loved their son and are devastated by his death. Losing a child is always considered one of the most painful losses, as it’s generally not expected. Parents are supposed to outlive their children, and usually do, not the other way around. So yes, I sympathize with them. I do. I swear that I do. I honestly can’t imagine exactly just how badly this must hurt, as I don’t have children myself. But I know that I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes right now.

Nevertheless, I can’t agree with this, especially as I read more of their statements. From the article:

The Zhus spoke via teleconference at a court hearing in late March and spoke to their reasons for wanting “to preserve the possibility of the use of Peter’s sperm in the future in order to posthumously realize his dream of having children and continuing the family line,” according to court documents.

Peter [Zhu] did not have a living will, but [Judge] Colangelo wrote that his decision was made, in part, by Peter’s “presumed intent” based on his prior actions and statements, including Peter’s decision to embark on a career in military service, his evident devotion to family, and a list of goals Peter had previously written, which included, “[have] three kids.”

Yeah, I’m sure that Peter Zhu had many dreams and goals that he wanted to accomplish, and it’s a shame that he died before he had a chance to realize most of those dreams, but, well, that’s life. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, and most will never know when our time is up. And I’m sure that when he dreamed of having three kids, he envisioned that he’d be having them with a wife (or possibly husband) and that he’d be alive to raise those children into adulthood. But none of that can happen now. And do know that he would want to have children in a situation like this? When I see all this talk of “continuing the family line,” it feels more like that’s just from the parents, and that’s where the ego is coming in. I mean, look, even if Peter did live a Will behind where he said he wanted this, does that make it right? In a world full of unwanted and orphaned children, if Mr. and Mrs. Zhu want to raise more children in the wake of their son’s death, they could adopt. Or become foster parents. Or volunteer to become mentors. But no they want biological children, to carry on their family line because that’s so important. Oh well, we lost one son, let’s make another. 

Perhaps I am being too harsh. I don’t know, but this whole thing just feels wrong to me. And I worry that it sets a dangerous precedent. Again, Peter left no Will, nor even any informal statement that he would agree to his parent using his sperm to create a child of his after his death, but the court is presuming that they have a “right” to do that because as his parents they’re his rightful heirs. It makes me think about what if I died, and my biological father whom I have no relationship with (by my choice) decided he wanted to have my sperm extracted so he could use it to create a grandchild? If I don’t explicitly say that I don’t want to allow that, then could he argue that he has the right to “carry on his family line” through me? The idea of my father raising children of mine makes me sick, and I know I’m not the only person who has a similar non-relationship with one or both of their parents, but most people aren’t going to think that something like this is something that they need to prepare for in the event of their death.

As I always say in response to stories like this, sometimes I think we, as a society, have advanced technologically much faster than we have culturally, and so we find ourselves where we have figured out how to do certain things before we’ve figured out if we should do certain things.


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