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Fatherhood After Death – Who Has the Rights to a Deceased Man’s Sperm?


Fatherhood After Death – Who Has the Rights to a Deceased Man’s Sperm?

It was a topic featured heavily during the latest season of Aussie hit dramedy Offspring. Main character Nina was given the choice of using her dead partner’s sperm to grow her family. But is using a deceased partner’s sperm (without his permission) ethical?

This dilemma is playing out in real life. The grieving fiancée of a Toowoomba man successfully applied to have her partner’s testes removed shortly after his death earlier this year, so she could apply later to use his sperm to have a child.

Tony Deane, 34, passed away unexpectedly in a Queensland hospital in April and his fiancée Leith Patteson, 42, said it would be ‘the greatest honour’ if she could still have his baby.

tony deane and leith patteson
Mr Deane and Ms Patteson

Documents show Ms Patteson successfully applied to the Supreme Court the next day to have his testes removed.

Queensland Fertility Group have stored the testes until it is decided whether they can legally be used to fertilise an egg. Ms Patteson must firstly make another legal application asking for the green light to use the stored sperm for IVF.

Mr Deane’s parents are adamantly against any move to use their son’s sperm to start a family.
tony deane parents
Mr Deane with his parents

Mr Deane’s parents were shocked to learn that his testes had been removed without their permission.

“If we had our way we would have liked our boy brought home in one piece,” Mr Deane’s mother Gaye Deane told ABC News“For her to turn around and get his testes removed, that was a big slap in the face.”

“I believe that Tony would not have wanted a child brought into this world if he could not be there to raise it.”

Ms Deane said if there was a court application to use her son’s sperm, her family would fight it.

“It’s something that we hope will never happen,” Ms Deane said.

tony deane

The court was given several sworn affidavits from the couple’s friends, who said they had already tried to conceive a child and were “ecstatic” when they thought they had fallen pregnant.

The pair met online in September 2015 and became engaged a month later after Mr Deane moved from New Zealand to Toowoomba, west of Brisbane.

“I believe that this is what Tony would have wanted. I believe that Tony would want me to have his child,” Ms Patteson told the court. She explained that she made the decision that she wanted to have Mr Deane’s child while he lay brain-dead in hospital. She told the court she wanted to continue with their dream of having a family.

“I am willing and able to have a child,” she told the court.

babies feet

This is obviously a devastating time for all concerned, but it does raise many questions.

• Does a person have the right to their deceased partner’s sperm?

• Should the parents have the right to make decisions about their adult child’s body? (including organ donation) Or does that decision lie with their partner?

• Does it matter that the couple were only together for a relatively short period of time? Would it have made a difference if the couple were legally married?

• Is it right that a child would be born into this world without any chance of meeting their father?

• Is it right that a childless man could potentially become a father from beyond the grave? Maybe even against his wishes?

• Does it seem fair that grieving parents were told that their son’s testes had been removed while on their way to the funeral home? And by the police?

• Did this procedure emasculate the deceased?

• Are the parents over-reacting out of spite? Is this a case of disliking the woman their son has chosen? Perhaps because he left their home in New Zealand to be with her?

• What would you have done in Ms Patteson’s position, knowing that you had 24 hours to make the decision? Is it better to have the testes stored just in case?

What are your thoughts?

Jill Slater

Jill Slater

Jill is a busy wife and mother of four young children. She loves nothing more than making people giggle, and loves to settle in with a glass of wine (or four) and wander about the internet. Feel free to follow her to see all the cool stuff she finds!

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