Creating Life After Death


Written by Joseph Dunsay. After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. Find more Jewrotica writing by Joseph here.

Rated PG-13

Judaism has recognized the importance of continuing a family line ever since biblical times. The levirate marriage, which brought together the widow and the brother of a deceased man, was an ancient procedure for ensuring that a man’s name would get passed down to future generations even if he dies childless. Modern technology provides another route for posthumous conception. Doctors can extract sperm from a dead man and fertilize an egg with it.

An article on Mosaic covers post mortem sperm donations. The procedure began in the late 1970’s thanks to the pioneering efforts of an American urologist. It has become more common over the decades. Doctors harvest the sperm within a day or two of the patients death while the gametes are still viable. They might surgically remove them from the testis, epididymis, or vas deferens, or they might induce ejaculation by applying an electrical shock to the prostate. Once doctors obtain the sperm, they use it for in vitro fertilization.

Laws regarding posthumous sperm retrieval vary by country, according to the Mosaic post. Some American hospitals will allow the procedure, but some will not. It is illegal in France, Sweden, Canada, and Germany. UK laws are becoming more permissive thanks to battles fought by determined women. Australians need a Supreme Court order to extract sperm from an expired man. Israeli law leans more towards procreation than the laws of other nations do.

A recent court case in Israel expanded the list of loved ones who can request postmortem conceptions. Before the case, doctors could only make babies with a dead man if he had signed written consent prior to dying or if his partner requested the pregnancy. In this case, the deceased man’s girlfriend did not want to bear his child, but she supported his parent’s petition to create his child with a donor egg and surrogate mother. The court granted this request and decided that the biological grandparents will become the adopted parents of the baby.

Death is an experience every human must encounter sooner or latter. Procreation makes it possible for a person to continue through offspring that form the next link in a chain. Tragedy ends the lives of some men before they are able to become fathers, but modern technology allows them to complete this task after they die. Israeli law allows a dead man’s partner or close relatives to ensure that a young man’s death does not mean the end of his line. Posthumous sperm retrieval, IVF, and surrogate motherhood provide reproductive options that were unimaginable a century ago.

After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. His LGBT erotic e-book launched in the summer of 2015.