Grandparents Want Baby With Dead Son's Sperm, Should They?

Sasha Brown-Worsham
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Israeli Ohad Ben-Yaakov was only 27 when he died at his job. He wasn't married and he had no baby on the way. He spent two weeks in a coma before succumbing and now, his devastated parents want to make a child with sperm they extracted during that time.

The couple -- Mali and Dudi Ben-Yaakov -- are currently petitioning the Israeli attorney general for the right to impregnate a surrogate of their choosing with their dead son's sperm. Israel has been on the cutting edge of reproductive technology, so it isn't surprising that a case like this would come from there, but it's a shocking one.

Just the idea of posthumous childbearing is odd enough, but add in that they would be the grandparents, not even the parents, and it starts to feel a little uncomfortably like cloning and like some strange, terrifying sci-fi future. Or like an episode of Private Practice. Take your pick.

But is it ethically right?

It's hard to even begin to imagine what these parents have been through. Losing a child is the worst pain most of us can even conjure and for them, it happened before he'd even had a chance to have his own family. This would allow them the opportunity to see the grandchild they never would have had otherwise. In that sense, it's a miracle of modern reproduction, an opportunity to help people through grief and make them stronger. On the other hand, it leaves a lot of questions.

What were Ohad's wishes? Did he want to be a father? Obviously this case brings a lot to the table. Just what rights do grandparents have? Presumably they will raise this child. I can say unequivocally that if I died, love my father though I do, I wouldn't want him raising my children. If he took my eggs against my will and then made a child, I would consider that a violation of my wishes.

It makes sense that these parents want a piece of their dead son, but there are other ways to help fill that void that don't involve potential violations of a person's right to make their own, private reproductive choices. They could adopt a child and share some of the love that they lost with him or her. They could volunteer with children and help take care of them.

There are many, many ways that they could deal with their grief that don't involve violating their son's right to decide whether he wanted to be a dad.

Still, if they can document his desire to be a dad, then it might make sense. If he told other people he wanted to be a father and that it was his wish in life, then fulfilling that desire could be a great gift to their son's legacy. But there is a very fine line and that proof should be established before they make a baby from a person who may not have wanted one.

What do you think is right? What do you think should be done?

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