- A judge has allowed the parents of a deceased West Point cadet to use their son’s sperm for reproductive purposes.
- The family claims their son long dreamed of having kids and says this will allow for his legacy and family name to be carried on.
- The ruling has raised several ethical concerns over whether or not it is okay to posthumously reproduce without someone’s consent.
Judge Rules That Sperm Can Be Used
A New York Supreme Court justice ruled that the parents of a West Point cadet who died in March can retrieve his sperm and use it for reproductive purposes.
Peter Zhu was injured in a skiing accident in on February 23. Four days later, the 21-year-old was pronounced brain dead.
However, because Zhu was an organ donor his body was kept alive for a few more days. During this time, his parents, Yongmin and Monica Zhu received a court order that allowed for his sperm to be retrieved as doctors were removing his organs for donation. At this time, it was unclear if they would actually be able to use the sperm.
Mr. and Mrs. Zhu claimed that it was their son’s wish to have children. They said that using his sperm would allow for the family name to be carried on and keep their son’s legacy alive.
In the judge’s ruling, there are several claims that Peter Zhu would often talk to his parents about “his dream of having several children, and the responsibility he felt to carry on his cultural and family legacy.”
On May 17, Justice John Colangelo granted his parents the right to use his sperm.
“At this time, the Court will place no restrictions on the use to which Peter’s parents may ultimately put their son’s sperm, including its potential for procreative purposes,” he wrote in the ruling.
As of now, it is unclear what kind of plans Mr. and Mrs. Zhu have for using the sperm, and it looks like they might wait before using it.
Justice Colangelo added in his ruling that when and if they choose to use it, it would not tarnish their son’s legacy.
“Should his parents choose to do so in the future, it would not do violence to his memory,” he wrote.
Case Raises Questions of Ethics
This ruling raised questions many have been asking for a long time regarding the ethics of posthumous procreation.
The first posthumous retrieval of sperm was reported back in 1980, and the first birth as a result of the process was reported almost two decades later in 1999. Since these cases, many have questioned whether or not consent from the deceased should be required before using their genetics to reproduce.
In Zhu’s case specifically, his parents did not have his direct permission to use his sperm in the event of his death. However, Mr. and Mrs. Zhu cited a paper he wrote at school, where he said his dream in life was to get married, have kids, and pursue a career in the military.
Several reports have been written over the years on this topic with differing opinions as to whether or not this would be enough consent to carry out the process.
A peer-reviewed journal report published in the year 2000 called Human Reproduction noted that there are grey areas.
“Written consent or verbal consent documented by a health care provider is not an absolute requirement, although such documentation would be desirable,” the report concluded.
The report did expand upon its point and acknowledged that while family members might have conflicts of interest when it comes to using the sperm, there are still cases when it could be ethical.
“It is possible that in some cases a reasonable inference can be made if the patient has previously discussed these matters with family members,” the report continued.
However, a 2018 ethics report from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine emphasized a stronger need for consent.
“Posthumous gamete (sperm or oocyte) retrieval or use for reproductive purposes is ethically justifiable if written documentation from the deceased authorizing the procedure is available,” their report says.
But it goes on to make one exception, saying “In the absence of written documentation from the decedent, programs open to considering requests for posthumous use of embryos or gametes should only do so when such requests are initiated by the surviving spouse or partner.”
In most cases where someone asks to use a sperm or embryo posthumously, the request is usually coming from a surviving spouse. However, Zhu’s case is not the first involving a request from parents.
In 2007, a court in Iowa granted a request by parents to retrieve their son’s sperm so that they could donate it to their son’s fiance.
A judge in Texas granted a mother the right to have her son’s sperm retrieved when he died at the age of 21 in 2009. She intended to hire a surrogate to carry his child.
Next Steps for the Zhu Family
Now that a judge has made a ruling, there are several steps for Mr. and Mrs. Zhu to take that could be complicated.
According to the New York Times, finding a surrogate willing to carry the baby may not be easy. The same goes for finding a fertility clinic willing to give the sperm to the surrogate so the baby can be raised by its grandparents.
The Times also reported that some hospitals have restrictions on how long they are willing to hold the sperm of a deceased person.
But Westchester Medical Center, which is in the county the ruling was given in, gave a statement to the Washington Post about the situation.
“From time to time, like most hospitals, Westchester Medical Center is presented with complex legal and ethical situations where guidance from the court is appropriate and appreciated,” they said before adding that they are “grateful the family sought a court order during such a difficult time.”
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (TIME) (Washington Post)
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)
Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)
- Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
- By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
- Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
Rick Snyder Charges
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.
The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.
He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.
The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.
Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.
His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.
8 Others Charged
Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.
Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:
- Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
- Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
- Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
- Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
- Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
- Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.
Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.
At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)
Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack
- At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
- Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
- Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive
At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus.
On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one.
Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested.
More Cases Follow
Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions.
“Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote.
“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added.
“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown.
“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.
Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks.
Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.