Knesset committee ponders a bill for sperm donation from a fallen soldier so his family can raise his offspring
There have been numerous cases of soldiers killed in the Israel Defense Forces service who were unmarried or otherwise childless and an only son to parents who despaired about not having grandchildren from him or soldiers’ widows who wanted a baby from them.
Now, the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee has finally begun to discuss the possibility of regulating the extraction of semen from the soldier soon after his death and using it to give birth to a child for his spouse, or his parents.
Committee chairman Efrat Reitan-Marom of the Labor Party declared: “We have broken the glass ceiling, and this will be a fundamental change that will lead to progress.” She stressed that the proposal deals so far only with soldiers who died or were killed and does not extend the possibility to all civilians.
Nitza Shmueli, whose soldier son Barel died without having offspring, said she wanted to do this and that she knew of at least 1,400 Israeli women who agreed to conceive from his sperm so he could posthumously become a father.
According to Likud MK May Golan – one of the proponents of the law – “there is no consolation for parents whose son was killed, but this possibility will shed some light on their lives and hearts. There are questions and difficulties, but they can and must be resolved.”
MK Zvi Hauser of the New Hope party, who also backs the bill, said that this is a complex and sensitive la, from a historical, cultural and social point of view. This is also the right thing in terms of the public interest and not just the personal one.” Another supporter, renegade Yemina MK Idit Silman, spoke about anchoring the rules of Jewish law (Halacha) in the proposal, and the need for a government law to regulate it.
Eli Ben-Shem, chairman of Yad Lebanim organization of parents of fallen soldiers, spoke about his years of activity to promote the law, while Moriah Cohen-Bakshi, from the Justice Miinistry’s legal department said and attorney-general and the Supreme Court have provided guidance on the matter.
An IDF representative said: “We see a value importance in regulating the practice and reported on about 30 such cases that have already been performed at the Shamir Medical Center in Tzrifin (near Rishon Lezion) but that only six of them were of soldiers. Hila Sher, a representative of the Defense Ministry, said that staff work on the bill has not yet been completed. .
The bill regulates the continuity of a soldier who died during his military service by allowing him to extract semen after his death and use it for the birth of a child after a request from his spouse, or his parents in the absence of a spouse if it was the soldier’s wishes.
The bill would establish for the first time a state public committee whose members would be professionals from the fields of ethics, law, society, medicine and religion; this body would be charged with hearing and approving requests of the bereaved spouse or parents to use the deceased soldiers’ sperm.
If the soldier did not leave instructions on the matter, his spouse could ask the committee to use the semen for the birth of a child. In the absence or lack of consent of the spouse, the bill also allows bereaved parents to apply to the committee to use the sperm to fertilize the eggs of a woman who volunteers to carry the fetus. It should be noted that the bill allows this arrangement for men only, since the procedure of extraction of eggs for a female soldier who died is not medically possible.
The explanatory memorandum to the law states that “along with the terrible pain of their loss, families of fallen soldiers sometimes seek to continue the family lineage. To his family. the State of Israel that cherishes its soldiers owes the fallen a moral debt by providing the opportunity for their continuity.
Calling it one of the most complicated and sensitive issues that he has ever worked on, Hauser said it would be groundbreaking should the bill pass and that many other countries could follow suit. “We tell people to place themselves in front of enemy bullets, to risk their life, for the good of the country,” he said. “In return, we have to give back to those who risk their lives. A lot of parents never knew of this option, and had many families known, they would have retrieved their son’s sperm. Some families have sporadically retrieved the sperm from their fallen children in the past, but “this can’t be done in an irresponsible way; the country has to regulate how it’s done,” he added.
As for questions of Jewish law, Rabbi Mordechai Halperin, director of the Dr. Falk Schlesinger Institute for Medical-Halachic Research and the chief officer of medical ethics at the Health Ministry said “As long as the deceased gave his consent in advance, there is strict supervision ensuring that there will be no mixing of sperm and there is documentation of the child’s paternity so that later, when the child is ready to get married, his legal, halachic father will be known,” the procedure is halachically acceptable.”
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Halperin, director of the Institute for Science and Halacha in Jerusalem, said that such insemination should all the more so be allowed because the purpose of the entire process is to create life from the semen, and that procreation is a commandment in the Torah. The Gemara indicates that once people are dead, they are not required to do mitzvot anymore, seemingly because they physically have lost the capability to do so, and therefore are “free” from doing mitzvot. Therefore, the mitzva of procreation cannot be fulfilled posthumously, because the man is no longer able to do it, but an argument countering this is that actions in life have the capability to reap a reward even after one’s death.
Some rabbinical experts have said that while there are many considerations, each complication has a factor of permissibility, and each individual should consult her own rabbi to discuss any pertinent matters. “From a legal standpoint, all issues can be avoided if there is clear, written consent, but from a halachic perspective the issues are obviously much more extensive There are no easy conclusions about whether or not this procedure is halachically permissible.”
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