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Judge Allows Parents to Use Dead Son’s Sperm to Make a Grandchild

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  • 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)

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Coachella Woman Sentenced for Dumping Puppies in Trash

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  • Deborah Sue Culwell, who was arrested for tossing a bag of seven puppies into a dumpster in April, has now pled guilty to seven counts of animal cruelty and seven counts of misdemeanor animal abandonment.
  • She was sentenced to 365 days in jail, 90 of which will be served on work release, and was also ordered to complete a formal probation period of seven years.
  • During her probation, she will not be allowed to own animals.

Culwell Pleads Guilty

A Coachella woman who made national headlines in April for tossing a bag of seven puppies into a dumpster will serve time behind bars after pleading guilty to 14 charges on Wednesday.

Deborah Sue Culwell initially pled not guilty to seven counts of animal cruelty and seven misdemeanor counts of animal abandonment when security footage of her committing the act went viral.

According to Riverside County Superior Court records obtained by Rogue Rocket, Culwell will now serve 365 days in jail, 90 of which will be on work release. Culwell was also sentenced to complete a formal probation period of seven years.

Other terms of her probation include not being allowed to own non-prescribed controlled substances, being subject to property searches and drug testing, and not being allowed to own animals during the seven-year period. 

Culwell’s Case

Culwell’s case drew in widespread attention and created national outrage earlier this year. On the day she abandoned the puppies in a dumpster, it was reportedly over 90 degrees in Coachella, California. The dogs were just three days old.

A man discovered them soon after and brought them into an air-conditioned store where others were able to call animal services. One of the puppies died a few days later. The surviving dogs were taken into foster care. 

When officers arrested Culwell, they found 38 dogs at her residence. She was forced to give up her ownership of them. They were transferred to Riverside County Animal Services and put up for adoption. RCAS said the animals were living in “crammed conditions,” appeared “nervous,” and were not “used to being handled with love.” 

See what others are saying: (Desert Sun) (BuzzFeed News) (CBS Los Angeles)

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Newark’s Water Crisis Intensifies as Reports Show City-Issued Filters Failed to Remove Lead Contamination

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  • After a report found a small number of city-issued filters failed to remove lead from Newark’s water system, the city advised all affected residents to avoid drinking from tap water.
  • Monday, the city and state began handing out water bottles, but people soon discovered the water was months past its best-by date. 
  • Many have called for Mayor Ras Baraka to resign because the city has faced elevated lead levels for years, but residents were not told the water was unsafe to drink until last year.

Asking for Federal Aid

Newark and New Jersey state officials are asking the Federal government to step in after the city began handing out bottled water earlier this week in response to growing concerns of lead contaminating its water service lines.

On Wednesday, Governor Phil Murphy visited the city and reiterated the need for federal aid, saying the state does not have enough water bottles to continue passing out for an extended period of time.

“Everybody, young and old, big and small, regardless of where you are in this state, in this community certainly in Newark in this country: clean water is a right, not a privilege, for everybody, and we believe that with great passion,” Murphy said in a press conference

Earlier in the day, Senator Cory Booker — who lives in Newark — tweeted about the need for federal aid in his hometown.

“It’s shameful that our national crisis of lead-contaminated water disproportionately hits poor black and brown communities like my own,” he wrote.

Newark’s Lead Crisis Explained

Old and corroding water service lines have propagated Newark’s lead issues for years. 

Since the 2010-2011 academic year, the Newark Board of Education has found elevated lead-water levels in schools every year. Despite attempting to fix the problem by installing new water lines, it persisted. 

In 2016, over 30 schools resorted to using bottled water after shutting off fountains, and thousands of children have been tested to see if they have increased levels of lead in their blood, with about 25 percent of Newark children under six having detectable lead levels.

In 2017, it was reported that 1 in every 10 households in Newark had twice the amount of lead the Environmental Protection Agency sets as a federal standard.

In the fall of last year, the city began handing out lead-safe PÜR filters. The city has estimated it has distributed more than 38,000 filters since October.

The increased calls for federal aid come after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an Aug. 9 statement to Mayor Ras Baraka, urging the city to begin handing out bottled water after it seemed some lead-safe filters were not adequately removing lead from water.

“We are unable at this time to assure Newark residents that their health is fully protected when drinking tap water filtered through these devices,” EPA Regional Administrator Peter Lopez said.

The next day, Baraka held a press conference and announced the city had received reports that two of three tested filters contained lead levels four times above what the EPA allows.

“A small sample of water filters provided to the City of Newark may not be removing lead to the low levels expected by city, state and federal officials,” a report released by the city on Monday said.

Also on Monday, city and state officials began handing out water bottles, advising those in affected areas to use bottled water to drink, cook, and prepare baby formula. 

Later, people began to notice the water was past its best-by date of May 30, and 50,000 more bottles had to be ordered. The state maintains the expired water was likely still safe to drink.

Residents waiting for water faced heat and long lines. Some said they were turned away if they weren’t from a specific area.

At the same time, Baraka has continually encouraged people to run their water for activities like showering or washing dishes. Currently, the city is attempting a corrosion-control treatment meant to re-coat old pipes.

Baraka has said residents should flush their water for 3-5 minutes before using it but has said the process will take some time. 

Because the water crisis affects mostly low-income and African American households, many are drawing comparisons to Flint, though Baraka has denied those associations and called them false comparisons.

Calls for Baraka to Resign

Despite the efforts taken by the city, some are saying Baraka should resign because until last fall, the city denied having a dangerous amount of lead in the water system. 

“It’s wrong,” one resident told ABC. “Something should be done about this. This has been going on for a while, and they’ve been covering it up and nobody didn’t do nothing about it.” 

After being sued by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Newark released a June 2018 statement saying “the City’s water is not contaminated with lead.”

“The lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council is based on the premise that Newark residents are exposed to dangerous levels of lead in the City’s drinking water,” the statement reads. “That charge is absolutely and outrageously false. The truth is that the water supplied by the city is pure, safe and fully complies with federal and state regulations. The NRDC has seriously mischaracterized the facts.

Many residents have spoken up about similar claims, saying the city lied to them.

“‘Your water’s fine, everything’s fine,’” Evette Jordan said she was told in an interview with CBS This Morning.

“That’s what you heard from the city?” reporter Anna Werner asked her.

“Yes, through several robocalls, through press conferences from our mayor,” Jordan said.

Though Newark admitted to the problems with lead in schools in the June statement, it argued it wasn’t to blame because the lead “stems from privately owned lead service lines,” not city mains.

See what others are saying: (WABC) (Star-Ledger) (New York Times)

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Ben Shapiro Slammed for Comments About Working Two Jobs

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  • Ben Shapiro recently made a comment about people who work two jobs to make ends meet saying, “you probably shouldn’t have taken the job that’s not paying you enough. That’d be a you problem.”
  • People were upset with his remarks and argued that he comes from a privileged background.
  • He tried to clarify his statement later, adding that he has worked “multiple jobs” throughout his career and understands why someone would need two.
  • Some were still unhappy with his comments, while others said they agreed with Shapiro.

Ben Shapiro’s Remarks go Viral

Conservative radio host Ben Shapiro responded to online backlash he received after saying that having to work two jobs to make ends meet is a “you problem.” 

On Wednesday, a clip of Shapiro making these comments on his show went viral. 

“If you had to work more than one job to have a roof over your head or food on the table, you probably shouldn’t have taken the job that’s not paying you enough,” he said. “That’d be a you problem.” 

Shapiro said he was referencing comments Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) made during a Democratic presidential debate. 

“People in America are working,” she said. “They’re working two and three jobs. So when we talk about jobs let’s be really clear. In our America, no one should have to work more than one job to have a roof over their head to food on the table.”

In the clip, Shapiro goes on to say that very few Americans are actually working multiple jobs, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is true. The BSL says that just under five percent of Americans work two jobs. However, some reports claim the number could be higher because sample groups may not reach enough people, and because someone working two jobs is less likely to participate in a survey. 

Comments Recieve Backlash

Still, Shapiro’s comments received a lot of backlash online. Many said they came from a place of privilege and pointed out the host’s financially comfortable upbringing. 

“Ben Shapiro is the child of a television studio executive and film composer and grew up in Hollywood as a private school dilettante who got his high school education for a tuition comparable to most Ivy League universities,” one user pointed out. 

It’s not a you problem it’s a systematic problem,” another said. 

Some also told their own stories about why people in their families have had to take multiple jobs. 

Shapiro Clarifies Statement

Shapiro later responded to the backlash on Twitter by posting a thread to clarify his comments.

“The point I am making, of course, is that you cannot dictate that a job pay you what you wish it paid you,” he said. 

However, he later added, “The answer to the problem of taking a job that you feel underpays you is to (a) not take the job, as I suggest here, or (b) not live beyond your means.”

He also said that he himself had worked multiple jobs for most of his career. 

“I understand why someone would need two jobs,” he later said after his thread.

Reactions to Shapiro’s Follow-Up

“You’ve had multiple gigs,” someone said. “That’s entirely different.” 

Others, however, defended Shapiro. 

“What he says is true,” one user wrote. “Just because you dont like it doesnt change it.”

See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (HuffPost) (The Hill)

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