- 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)
Rep. Katie Porter Calls Out Big Pharma CEO for Profiting Off Drug Price Hikes
- A now-viral clip of Rep. Katie Porter shows her laying into the former CEO of the drug company Celgene for tripling the price of a cancer drug and detailing how that price hike was connected to the CEO’s salary.
- The clip comes from a hearing concluding a damning 18-month investigation that found drug company profits are the largest driver of drug price increases and gouging.
- The reports show that the companies intentionally drove up the prices of essential drugs to meet quarterly earnings goals, engaged in anti-competitive behavior, and lobbied extensively against reforms.
Rep. Katie Porter (D-Ca.) trended on Twitter Wednesday after grilling the former CEO of the drug company over price hikes for the cancer drug Revlimid.
In a viral video, which now has over 19 million views, a white-board wielding Porter writes the number “$13 million” and asks Celgene CEO Mark Alles if it “rings any bells.”
“This was your compensation in 2017 for being CEO of Celgene, and that’s a lot of money. It’s 200 times the average American’s income and 360 times what the average senior gets on Social Security,” she said.
“Now, of that 13 million, about 2.1 million came from your company hitting yearly earnings targets, and more than half of the bonus formula was based on those targets,” she continued. “Any increase in the price of Revlimid would also increase your bonus by increasing earnings, isn’t that right Mr. Alles?”
Alles responded that that assessment was correct, and Porter went on to tell him that the House Oversight Committee found “that if you hadn’t increased the price of Revlimid you wouldn’t have gotten your bonus.”
“In fact, you personally received half a million dollars personally just by tripling the price of Revlimid,” she added. “So, to recap here, the drug didn’t get any better, the cancer patients didn’t get any better: you just got better at making money, you just refined your skills at price gouging. And to be clear, the taxpayer spent $3.3 billion on Revlimid.”
House Investigation Findings
The now-viral video comes from a House Oversight Committee hearing that took place Wednesday.
The hearing, which was the first of two, marks the conclusion of a nearly two-year-long investigation by the committee’s Democrats into prescription drug price gouging. The reports from that investigation — two of which were also released ahead of the hearing — are incredibly damning.
Those first two reports focus on Celgene, which is now owned by the drug company Bristol Myers Squibb, and its pricing of Revlimid, as well as another pharmaceutical company called Teva and its multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone.
Among other things, both reports reveal how the massive profits these companies made have been the driving force in the huge price increases for these essential drugs.
According to the reports, Teva has raised the price of Copaxone 27 times since 2007, and because of those price increases, an annual course of the drug now costs nearly $70,000 — seven times the $10,000 it cost in 1997.
As for Revlimid, since 2005, Celgene has raised the price of the drug 22 times, from $215 per pill to $719, the report said. After Bristol Myers Squibb got the rights to Revlimid last November, it raised the price again, to $763 per pill.
Those price hikes have been insanely profitable. As the reports outline, Copaxone has brought in more than $34 billion in net profits for Teva just in the U.S. alone. Meanwhile, just between 2009 and 2018, Celgene collected $51 billion in net revenues from Revlimid sales worldwide and $32 billion in the U.S.
As Porter mentioned in the viral clip, the reports also found that those profits end up costing taxpayers and Medicare tens of billions of dollars, which are then used to pay generous executive bonuses.
Another hearing is set to be held Thursday with testimonies from other CEOs of other drug companies. The reports on those companies will be released ahead of the hearing as well.
Reports Contradict CEO Testimonies
In Wednesdays hearing, Alles, as well as the CEO of Teva, both defended the price hikes as above-board and merited.
“The pricing decisions for our medicines were guided by a set of long-held principles that reflected our commitment to patient access, the value of a medicine to patients in the health care system, the continuous efforts to discover new medicines and new uses for existing medicines and the need for financial flexibility,” Alles told the representatives.
However, Porter specifically asked Alles if the drug’s formula had been substantially improved from 2005 , when the pill cost $215, to now, when it costs three times more. Alles confirmed that the manufacturing for the drug had not changed, but said it had been approved for new uses.
Arguably even more damning is the fact that internal documents and emails included in the report showed that executives at both Celgene and Teva raised prices unrelated to costs in order to meet quarterly profit goals.
In one of the most explicit examples, the Celgene report notes that in 2014, Alles — who was then the executive vice president of the company — ordered the price of Revlimid be jacked up by 4% because the company had not met its first-quarter sales goals. Just days later, Alles gave a presentation to the company’s drug pricing advisory board that noted the increase would result in $24 million in new net sales.
As for Teva, the company’s CEO Kåre Schultz also defended the price jacking of Copaxone during the hearing, though he offered another explanation.
“In order for any pharmaceutical company to research and develop new drugs, or improve old ones, the price of successful medicines must reflect the significant cost of ongoing research and development projects,” he said. “The public only sees and pays for the drugs that are ultimately approved by the government, like Copaxone, but you have to expend a lot of resources and endure many disappointments before bringing to the market safe and effective medicines.”
The committee’s report on Teva also disputes that claim too. In fact, it specifically found that Teva has only spent $689 million on research related to Copaxone since 1987 — just 2% of the nearly $34 billion it has taken in net revenue for the drug.
Beyond the price hikes, the reports also gives the public what has been described as the clearest proof to date that large drug companies are engaged in anticompetitive behavior to force competitors out of the market.
In one of the most egregious examples, Teva put out a new, stronger version of Copaxone as part of what they referred to as a coordinated “generic defense strategy.” According to internal documents, that strategy included working with middlemen to block other generic drugs from getting market access, as well as launching aggressive campaigns to lobby doctors and patients to stick with the more expensive version of the drug.
To that point, the Congressional reports also show how these companies have lobbied extensively against regulations and reforms that would prevent them from ramping up drug prices. However, in providing the public with this information, the Democrats on the committee hope to push for substantial drug pricing reforms.
In a letter prefacing the reports, Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-Ny.) emphasized the need for comprehensive legislation such as the drug price bill passed by the House back December known as H.R. 3, which would reform the system by allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies over prices.
As Maloney notes, that bill essentially died in the Senate because President Donald Trump openly opposed it and Senate Republicans refused to even bring it for a vote.
Celebrities, Journalists, and Politicians Respond to the First Presidential Debate
- After the first 2020 Presidential Debate aired on Tuesday, many took to social media to respond to the broadcast, which was full of interruptions, chaos and shouting.
- CNN‘s Jake Tapper called it a “hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.” He added that it was not even a debate but a disgrace to the country.
- Celebrities like Cardi B also issued live commentary. Cardi B posted several videos yelling at President Donald Trump to stop speaking over former Vice President Joe Biden. Many joined in on her frustrations.
- Because this debate lacked decorum and decency, debate organizers said there will be format changes to future debates.
Celebrities Respond to Debate Chaos
After Americans finished watching the first 2020 Presidential Debate on Tuesday, many across the country agreed that one thing was clear: the debate was essentially a 90 minute car crash on live television.
“That was a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper said on air after it ended. “That was the worst debate I have ever seen, in fact it wasn’t even a debate. It was a disgrace.”
Moderator Chris Wallace was largely unable to control the constant crosstalk and interrupting between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden throughout the night. At one point, when Biden could not get more than three words in without Trump interjecting, Biden told Trump to “shut up.” While Biden did interrupt the president as well, Wallace said most of the cutting in was done by Trump.
“I think that the country would be better served, if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I’m appealing to you, sir, to do that,” Wallace said in a plea to Trump.
Some of the most colorful commentaries of the night came from singer Cardi B, who posted several videos on Instagram of her doing what many Americans found themselves doing on Tuesday: screaming at their televisions.
“Tell Joe to get aggressive,” she shouted, addressing Biden’s campaign team. “When this n**** try to talk over Joe, he better start like ‘EXCUSE ME I’m talking! I’m talking! Excuse me, I’m talking!’ Don’t let this man pick on you! He just wanna do a show so give him a show.”
She repeatedly attacked Trump for interrupting Biden, and for the recent New York Times report alleging that Trump only paid $750 in taxes in 2016. She also joined the many critics who did not believe Wallace was handling the chaos on stage well.
“I can tell he’s on Trump’s side, this moderator needs to be replaced right now,” she said.
She was not alone in sharing her live reactions. Actors like Kumail Nanjiani and Mark Ruffalo live-tweeted in horror as all decorum was thrown out the window minutes into the debate. Less than 30 minutes into the broadcast, actress Brie Larson reminded people that it was okay for them to turn the debate off if they were reaching a breaking point.
Many celebrities also used the debate to remind their followers to vote. Ariana Grande put voting resources in her Instagram story. Others tweeted out registration links.
Politicians and Journalists Condemn Aspects of Debate
Politicians also responded to the fiery debate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that Trump’s words should serve as a reminder that democracy is on the line in this election.
Other Senators, like Ed Markey and Cory Booker, condemned President Trump for refusing to denounce white supremacy, and instead telling the Proud Boys, a white nationalist-tied group, to “stand back and stand by.”
Journalists were also shocked by the debate. After calling the debate a “hot mess inside a dumpster fire,” Tapper continued to rebuke the behavior on stage.
“One thing for sure, the American people lost,” he said. He was not along in thinking this.
“I found it at times painful to watch and very difficult to watch,” Gale King said during debate analysis on CBS News. “We have the president of the United States engaging in some of the language, and it wasn’t that it was swearing or cursing it was just, I’m looking for the decorum and decency that you expect at this particular level.”
NBC’s Katy Tur live-tweeted the debate. She criticized Wallace for telling Trump he would be pleased with upcoming questions and topics on multiple occasions.
On the other side, some did come to the defense of Trump. Fox News’ Tomi Lahren said that Biden only interrupts less “because he thinks slower.” She also called white privilege a “myth.”
Laura Ingraham claimed that Biden was able to interrupt, but did so with impunity.
This debate was the first of three between Trump and Biden. Following the chaos that unfolded, debate organizers said there will be format changes so that future debates have more structure.
See what others are saying: (The Hill) (The Independant) (New York Times)
Juror Accuses Kentucky AG of Misrepresenting Deliberations in Breonna Taylor Case
- On Monday, an anonymous grand juror on the Breonna Taylor case filed a complaint alleging that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron misrepresented the jury’s deliberations and failed to offer them the option to bring homicide charges against the officers.
- Last week, Cameron announced to the public that the grand jury had not filed any charges against the officers for Taylor’s death. Instead, the jury only brought charges against one officer for firing his weapon recklessly, sending shots into a neighboring apartment.
- In his announcement, Cameron repeatedly said that while he knew people would be upset with the decision, it was simply his job to present all the facts to the grand jury and let them decide.
- However, the complaint accused Cameron of using the jury “as a shield to deflect accountability and responsibility.” It requested that the jury recordings be released and that the jurors be permitted to discuss the case publicly.
- Also on Monday, a judge ordered the recordings to be released, and Cameron said he would honor the request.
Grand Juror Files Complaint
A grand juror in the Breonna Taylor case filed a complaint in court Monday claiming that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron misrepresented the jury’s discussions and never offered them the option to bring homicide charges against the officers who shot Taylor in her apartment.
The complaint, which was filed anonymously, also requests that all recordings and transcripts from the jury deliberations be released and that the jurors on the case be permitted to speak about it publicly.
The filing comes just a week after Cameron announced that none of the three Louisville Metro Police officers involved in Taylor’s death were charged for the actual killing of the 26-year-old EMT in what has largely been described as a botched drug raid.
Louisville police were serving a warrant because they believed an ex-boyfriend of Taylor’s was using her apartment to receive packages. Both Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, did not have any prior drug arrests or convictions, and no drugs were found in the apartment.
Police say they knocked and identified themselves before entering, but Walker claimed they did not. As a result, he said he thought they were an intruder, and when they entered by force, he fired a weapon, hitting one of the officers in the leg and prompting them to unload more than two dozen rounds into the apartment.
One of the officers, Detective Brett Hankison, blindly fired shots into the apartment which also traveled into neighboring apartments. Last week, the grand jury charged him with three counts of wanton endangerment, though not in connection with the death Taylor, but because of the shots he fired into the neighboring apartment.
The two other officers present, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, do not face any charges.
Following Cameron’s announcement of the grand jury’s findings, Taylor’s family, their lawyers, and many others said they did not believe the attorney general advocated on behalf of the young woman. Many have also called for more information regarding how Cameron presented the case to the jury.
However, Cameron refused to release any grand jury transcripts or recordings, arguing that it could interfere with other ongoing investigations.
Complaint Allegations vs. Cameron’s Public Statements
The grand juror complaint filed Monday also echoed those calls for transparency concerning the information presented to the jury, and accused Cameron of using the jury “as a shield to deflect accountability and responsibility.”
In his remarks to the public, Cameron said that he knew many people would be unhappy with the decision but repeatedly emphasized that his role was to pursue the truth, present all the facts to the grand jury, and let them decide.
Regarding those facts, he said there were six possible homicide charges that could have been filed, but added that those charges “are not applicable to the facts before us because our investigation showed — and the grand jury agreed — that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the return of deadly fire after having been fired upon.”
Cameron also said that the officers’ claim that they knocked and announced themselves was backed by an independent witness.
When a reporter asked why the testimony from just one witness was so credible — especially because out of a dozen witnesses they had spoken to only one said they heard police knock — he said that the jury “got to hear and listened to all the testimony and made the determination that Detective Hankinson was the one that needed to be indicted knowing all of the relative points that you made.”
Perhaps most significant, when asked if he ever presented manslaughter or homicide charges to be considered by the jury, Cameron refused to answer, citing the secrecy of the proceedings, but placed the decision firmly on the jury.
“What I will say is that our team walked them through every homicide offense, and also presented all of the information that was available to the grand jury,” he said. “And then the grand jury was ultimately the one that made the decision about indicting Detective Hankinson for wanton endangerment.”
In the complaint, however, the juror claims that Cameron’s public remarks about the decisions the jury made “further laid those decisions at the feet of the grand jury while failing to answer specific questions regarding the charges presented.”
The complaint alleges that Cameron “attempted to make it very clear that the grand jury alone made the decision on who and what to charge,” and thus imply it was the jury that decided not to bring homicide charges, when in reality, he was the one who never gave them that option in the first place.
“The only exception to the responsibility he foisted upon the grand jurors was in his statement that they ‘agreed’ with his team’s investigation that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their actions,” it continued.
The complaint then goes on to argue that it is in the public interest to release the records, specifically because so many citizens have shown a lack of faith in the legal proceedings and the justice system itself.
“The public interest spreads across the entire commonwealth when the highest law enforcement official fails to answer questions and instead refers to the grand jury making the decisions,” it said. “It is patently unjust for the jurors to be subjected to the level of accountability the Attorney General campaigned for simply because they received a summons to serve their community.”
Cameron Response and Judge Ruling
Notably, the juror’s request that the records be made public was not the only such petition made Monday. During an arraignment hearing for Hankison — where he pleaded not guilty to all charges — the judge overseeing the case ordered recordings of the grand jury proceedings to be added to the court file by noon Wednesday.
On Monday night, Cameron said that he would follow the judge’s order and release the recordings, and confirmed for the first time that he never asked the jury to consider homicide or manslaughter charges.
In a statement announcing the decision, the attorney general reiterated that he believed the grand jury was meant to be secretive, and that releasing the records “could compromise the ongoing federal investigation and could have unintended consequences such as poisoning the jury pool.”
“Despite these concerns, we will comply with the Judge’s order to release the recording on Wednesday,” he continued, noting that the release “will also address the legal complaint filed by an anonymous grand juror.”
Cameron also said that he did not have concerns about jurors speaking to the public, arguing that once the public hears the recording, “they will see that over the course of two-and-a-half days, our team presented a thorough and complete case to the Grand Jury,”