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HFEA Chair Ruth Deech
"Sperm is not property"
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Cary Johnston reports for BBC News
"A hospital spokesman says its lawyers have advised it not to release the sperm"
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In discussion
HFEA's Ruth Deech and Professor Craft of the London Fertility Clinic
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Monday, 20 December, 1999, 19:59 GMT
Fight for dead man's sperm

Laboratory The case raises ethical questions

<\STRING_ENCODING>The authenticity of a man's typed request for his sperm to be used in the conception of a surrogate baby for his parents has been called into question.

Lance Smith died in a car crash in November 1998 but left a form giving permission for his 36-year-old fiancée to use his sperm.

But after she said she did not want to have a baby, the dead man's parents, Barry and Natasha Smith, produced a home-made, typed letter, which they say was also written by their son.

On the strength of that letter, they want the clinic keeping their son's frozen gametes to release them for implantation in a donated egg - which they plan to have carried by a surrogate mother - and are preparing a legal case to force the clinic to allow this to happen.

We would all like to be grandparents. It doesn't mean we have the right to carry around the eggs and sperm of our children looking for someone to bring them to life
Ruth Deech, chair of the HFEA
Ruth Deech, chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the situation was "fraught with legal and ethical problems".

She said: "Apparently he signed a form saying it [his sperm] could be used by his fiancée but she doesn't want to have a baby. Now the parents say they have found another form.

"If it was his wish, then that has to be authenticated by a piece of paper, now they have a piece of paper. There are apparently two quite different pieces that he wrote, so they have to be able to go to court and find which, if either, is authentic."

She added: "We would all like to be grandparents, I am sure. It doesn't mean to say that we have the right to carry around the gametes, the eggs and sperm, of our children as if they were commodities looking for someone to bring them to life."

Mr and Mrs Smith, who are both 60 and live in Droitwich, Worcestershire, have had their request to release their son's sperm denied by the fertility clinic at Birmingham's Priory Hospital.

Sperm The frozen sperm is being stored in Birmingham
The clinic - which stored a quantity of Lance's sperm after the accident - was told by the HFEA the sperm could be stored but not used.

The hospital says it has concerns about the welfare of the child and the fact Lance did not undergo counselling before giving sperm, as required under HFEA rules.


He apparently made his request in a brief letter after he became interested in the case of Diane Blood, who fought for the right to have a baby using her dead husband's sperm.

Two years ago Ms Blood won a legal battle to gain the right to conceive a baby using her dead husband's sperm.

If this sperm is destroyed, it is as if he is dying again
Barry Smith
Priory Hospital's executive director John Sharp told Barry and Natasha Smith it was "outside the scope of the consent" to have the baby by a surrogate mother.

The HFEA - the government's fertility treatment watchdog - says any decision to release the sperm can only be made by the clinic where it is stored.

Barry Smith told the Mail on Sunday newspaper: "You must understand, if this sperm is destroyed it is as if he is dying again to us, it really is."

Chief Executive of the HFEA, Suzanne McCarthy, said: "What we would encourage people to do if they are at all worried that they could have an accident or get ill very quickly and not be able to have their sperm taken, is go out and get it stored.

"Then the consent is very clear and there is no doubt."

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See also:
16 Dec 99 |  Health
Woman battles test-tube ruling
15 Dec 99 |  Health
Court fight over test-tube ban
02 May 99 |  UK
Diane Blood's son christened
29 Mar 99 |  Sci/Tech
Baby from dead husband's sperm

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