A New York judge ruled that the parents of West Point cadet Peter Zhu, 21, who was declared brain-dead after a skiing accident, can take sperm harvested from his body with “no restriction.” The parents say they want to fulfill their son’s lifelong desire to have children and continue the family name.
Lauren Sydney Flicker, a bioethicist and expert in post-mortem sperm retrieval at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx [there is such a thing as being an expert in post-mortem sperm retrieval?] told the New York Times,
“Here is the ethical debate, and it will be different for different people: Is it a greater ethical burden to prevent someone from having the opportunity to be a father by passing along their genetic material? Or is it a greater ethical burden to have a man father a child, without his consent, that he wouldn’t be around to raise?”
Huh? I’d say the burden of not living pretty much wipes out the burden of not being a father, and renders it moot. Absent explicit instructions that the young man wanted his sperm used to spawn a child after he died, the cadet’s desires regarding a family while he was planning on being alive are rendered moot by his death.
The ethical issue doesn’t involve Peter Zhu at all. He’s not really “fathering a child,” and he doesn’t care what happens to his sperm. He’s dead. The child is only his in the most technical and meaningless sense; he isn’t responsible for it. The ethical question involves the child, and only the child. Is it ethical to create a human being that will have no natural father so it can be raised by grandparents, and also have him or her be burdened with the job of being a living souvenir for Peter’s grieving parents?
This one is both icky and unethical.