French court makes it legal to export sperm for “post-mortem insemination”

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In vitro fertilization (IVF) and other advances in the medical technology to create life requires increasingly specific laws and ethical debates. Legal conditions for preserving human embryos, for instance, vary significantly according to the country, for example. Another increasingly contentious question is what to do after the person who froze his or her eggs or sperm dies: Can that genetic material be used to conceive children post-mortem?

In several countries—including France, Germany, Sweden, and Canada—using sperm post-humously for conception is illegal. But today (May 30) France’s Conseil d’État (Council of State) ruled in favor of exporting a dead man’s frozen sperm to Spain so that his widow could use it there for in-vitro fertilization. The woman’s lawyers called an “extraordinary and unprecedented” (link in French) decision.

The couple, Mariana Gomez-Turri and Nicola Turri, lived in France when Turri was diagnosed with cancer of the lymphatic system. He froze his sperm before starting chemotherapy, a routine procedure due to the fact that treatment can cause infertility.

Turri, an Italian citizen, died in 2015. His wife, a Spanish citizen, moved back to Spain, and began a legal battle to create a child with his sperm, which was stored in France. Since Spanish law permits “post-mortem insemination,” Gomez-Turri argued that the least France could do was allow her to export her deceased husband’s genetic material.

The Council, agreed, saying that applying France’s ban on post-mortem insemination to the sperm-export question would be too intrusive into the private life of a foreign citizen. “Neither MsGomez nor the child will have links with France,” said the court’s spokesperson (link in French), “because the husband wasn’t French.” (Although post-mortem insemination is not legal in Italy, either.)

However, the court underlined that its decision should not be interpreted as an attempt to question (link in French) French law on post-mortem insemination in its territory.


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