The Debate over Postmortem Sperm Retrieval of Fallen Soldiers image

Jerusalem Post, November 22, 2017
Avishalom Westreich (Visiting Scholar Alumnus)

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This essay is based in part on the workshop the Petrie-Flom Center hosted on October 23, 2017, in which then-Visiting Scholar Avishalom Westreich presented his research-in-progress to a diverse group of religious, bioethics, and health law scholars, and our Student Fellows

Two tragic cases have been at the forefront of the Israeli public discussion of posthumous fertilization in recent months. Both involved soldiers who died childless during their military service.

Death, and especially that of young persons, naturally arouses strong emotions which influence the discussion of posthumous fertilization. In the Israeli context, however, when such a process involves dead soldiers, the entire discussion is much more charged and complicated. The desire of the family (especially the soldier’s parents) to act in the name of their son, to bring some relief to their mourning, and to provide continuity for the deceased soldier is very intense, and public support for and solidarity with these bereaved families is extremely high.

Shaked Meiri was a reserve soldier who died during a military exercise when he was 27 (September 2004). Meiri wed only three months prior to his death and was childless, which made his death that much more tragic. His sperm was extracted and frozen with the agreement of his widow and the active support of his parents. But she later objected, remarried, and had her own children from the new relationship. His parents requested to use his sperm to impregnate another woman, and their request was approved by the family court. The widow’s appeal to the district court was rejected, and the case came before the Supreme Court (Family Appeal Request 7141/15).

In December 2016 the court issued its decision.

According to the court, there is indeed an existing right to procreate that applies also to posthumous fertilization, but with a significant limitation, according to which the spouse of the deceased – and only the spouse – is entitled to decide on implementation. [...]

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bioethics health law policy international regulation reproductive rights reproductive technologies