Assisted human reproduction : posthumous use of gametes
Douglass, Alison Jane
In the past posthumous reproduction has been primarily a result of accident or fate. More recently, the ability to freeze sperm and embryos (and the potential for use of stored ova) has lead to greater control over procreation and its timing in relation to the lives of parents. The technology associated with posthumous reproduction is now commonplace, but the application of these techniques represents a subtle shift of focus from the technical aspects to the arguably insidious acceptance of this development. This thesis critically reflects on both the ethical and legal considerations of posthumous use of sperm and particular implications in the New Zealand context. Four cases are presented to illustrate the complexity of posthumous conception by assisted means: (1) the gamete provider stores sperm with the express intention of posthumous use by his partner; or (2) that the sperm not to be used posthumously; (3) storage of sperm is for other purposes prior to medical intervention, for example, cancer therapy; (4) the gamete provider makes no provision for storage of sperm but the opportunity for retrieval arises when the gamete provider is permanently unconscious or recently deceased. A framework for discussion of the ethical issues in posthumous reproduction highlights the difficulty of measuring unknown or possible harms to the child-to-be and the limitations of reducing ethics to an individualistic consequentialist analysis. The moral weighting in this analysis is complex because of the tripartite relationships involved; the deceased father, the surviving mother, and the child. Ethical issues are embedded in a social and cultural context. These contextual features include the significance of the reproductive experience and views on mortality, the concept of family formation and relatedness of family members, the moral status of gametes in a context where their potentiality has been realised, and a bicultural approach to addressing these issues. Existing legislation in New Zealand and applicable common law demonstrates that the law takes scant account of the more complex ethical issues that arise in posthumous reproduction. Gametes may be regarded as a form of property with the gamete provider having the control of their disposition during their lifetime but not after death. The rights and intentions of the parents take precedence over any consideration of the child born posthumously. In the absence of specific legislative direction, posthumous reproduction would create some legal anomalies. The case of R v Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority ex parte Blood (1997] 2 All ER 687 is discussed in the New Zealand context. Recommendations for guidelines on this topic are made. Posthumous reproduction, as with other novel aspects of assisted human reproduction, would benefit from legislation to provide a framework for ethical debate and, where necessary, decision making.
Advisor: Richards, Barbara Skegg, Peter
Degree Name: Master of Bioethics and Health Law
Degree Discipline: Bioethics Centre
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
x, 177 leaves ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references. "December 15, 1998"