More dead men siring children

WASHINGTON - Dead men may tell no tales, but they do occasionally sire children.

Increasingly, doctors are being asked to extract sperm from male corpses for surviving wives or girlfriends who wish to have a child. The practice raises complex questions of consent, privacy and child welfare, and could benefit from more clearly defined bioethical policies, according to a report in the July issue of Fertility And Sterility.

The first American birth of a baby after posthumous sperm procurement occurred in 1999, after a woman used sperm extracted from her husband about 30 hours after his death to become pregnant by in-vitro fertilisation.

As of last year, 34 states had recorded at least one instance of a woman seeking permission to procure sperm from a recently deceased mate, and 19 of those states had honoured such requests.

Dr Frances Batzer, a physician at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and her colleagues suggest that fertility clinics adopt clear policies based on the best science and a thorough consideration of ethics. -- AP