Wednesday 24 April 2019

'A chance to complete their family' - dying man's sperm extracted in the hope it can help his wife conceive, after judge's ruling

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Brian Farmer

A specialist has extracted sperm from a dying man whose wife had been undergoing fertility treatment following a ruling by a judge in a specialist court.

Lawyers representing the woman have described Mrs Justice Gwynneth Knowles's ruling - made at a hearing in the UK's Court of Protection, where judges consider issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions - as "enlightened".

The woman had made an urgent application at a hearing in London late on Thursday after her husband suffered a sudden and traumatic brain injury.

Mrs Justice Knowles gave the woman permission to have her husband's sperm "retrieved and stored" before he died.

The judge was told that the man had suffered brain damage and was unable to make decisions for himself.

She heard that the couple had been involved in a fertility treatment programme, and had been hoping for a child, when the man suffered the injury.

The judge said she was satisfied that the man would have wanted his sperm to be retrieved and stored, so that it could be used to allow his wife to conceive, if he had been able to make decisions for himself.

Mrs Justice Knowles said nothing could be reported which might identify the family involved.

The judge had also said she wanted nothing reported while the man was in the final stages of his life, in order to ease the strain on the woman.

Lawyers involved say the man has now died.

They said a specialist had retrieved sperm shortly before death.

Barrister Michael Mylonas QC had led the woman's legal team and outlined her application to Mrs Justice Knowles.

The judge also heard submissions from lawyers representing the man, doctors caring for the man and from UK fertility regulator the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

They all backed the woman's application.

Ayesha Vardag, who represented the woman and is head of law firm Vardags, said the decision was "enlightened".

"The sudden loss of a husband is always devastating, and it is all the more poignant when it is a loving couple who were trying to have a baby together," she said.

"This enlightened and constructive ruling by the Court of Protection, the co-operative approach of the HFEA and the compassion and dedication of the medical teams involved has given a ray of hope to a young widow and the chance to complete their family in the future as the husband had wished."

She added: "The wife also takes great comfort from the fact that part of her husband's legacy will be, through this ruling, to help other couples in this tragic situation."

Mrs Justice Knowles, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, said she would outline the reasoning behind her decision in a written ruling in the near future.

Press Association

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