Should a Dead Man Become a Dad?

July 28th, 2009 by Kathy McManus

Should a Texas woman be allowed to harvest her dead son’s sperm to have grandkids?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Nikolas Evans was a 21-year-old college student when he was attacked outside an Austin bar and fell to the ground, hitting his head. He died ten days later. He had no wife, no children, and no fiancé.

Should he now become a father?

In a case that has raised as many eyebrows as ethical questions, Nikolas Evans’s mother went to court and obtained a judge’s order allowing her dead son’s sperm to be collected so that she could have a surrogate produce a grandchild for her.

“I just thought about how much I loved my son and how much I loved raising him, and how sad I was that he wasn’t going to be here anymore,” Marissa Evans said. “And if I could find a way to have a grandbaby to raise, that it might make my heart heal a little.”

Ms. Evans—who also has a 22-year-old son—said Nikolas often spoke of having three boys, and had even chosen names for them: Hunter, Tod, and Van. “As the mother of a son I knew so well,” she said, “I feel he would have wanted me to do this.”

While Nikolas Evans may have told his mother he wanted children someday, a philosophy professor said, it’s wrong to assume he also would have wanted to father a child posthumously if he died prematurely. “This is a tough way for a kid to come into the world,” said a university ethicist. “As the details emerge and the child learns more about their origins, I just wonder what the impact will be on a ‘replacement child.’”

Though legal experts and medical ethicists say the case may be precedent-setting, for many it remains unsettling. “Imagine a close relative strip-mining your body for the material to create children you never consented to have,” said a Texas newspaper editorial. “Privacy rights end when you die, of course, but to have one’s next of kin making such a profound, and profoundly intimate, choice for one after death will strike many people as a gross violation of personal sovereignty.”

Tell us what you think: Is pursuing a grandchild in this manner responsible? Should there be laws to govern the use of a deceased son’s sperm? If so, what should the legal boundaries be?