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PUNE: The parents of a 27-year-old man, who died of brain tumour two years ago, used their unmarried son’s cryo-preserved semen extracted long before his death to have grandchildren.
Fusing the semen with eggs of a matching donor, doctors created embryos and transferred them into a surrogate mother’s womb. The woman, who incidentally is the man’s aunt, delivered healthy twin baby boys two days ago.
Experts, however, have raised questions about the ethics behind the procedure.
The man was diagnosed with brain tumour in 2013 while pursuing higher education in Germany. Fearing that chemotherapy would render him infertile, doctors took his consent to cryopreserve his semen sample before he went through the chemo-cycles in Germany in September the same year. After he died of cancer-related complications in Pune in September 2016, the parents procured the semen sample.
The man’s 49-year-old mother, a teacher, described her son as the “most ideal man”. “He was a bright student and excelled in academics. Even when he was diagnosed with brain tumour and later lost his vision after the chemotherapy, he did not lose spirit. He fought valiantly till the last breath. He always tried to regale us with his stories and humour. That’s why, when we lost him, I wanted to have grandchildren using the cryopreserved semen,” she said.
The mother contacted the sperm bank in Germany and completed the formalities to get the semen. She then approached Sahyadri Hospital on Pune-Ahmednagar road for the IVF procedure.
Infertility expert Supriya Puranik, who helped with the procedure, said the semen was brought back to Pune in a medical preservation solution box in February last year.
Doctors found an egg donor matching the family’s physical characteristics (colour, facial features etc) and injected the semen in the donor’s extracted eggs to create four embryos and cryopreserved them. The man’s mother was ready to carry the embryos in her womb but was not found fit for conception during an examination. Her 38-year-old cousin from Nanded expressed willingness to be the surrogate.
“After validating the woman’s fitness, we transferred two embryos in her womb in May last year. Both embryos were implanted and the conception was confirmed in June. After regular check-ups, the woman delivered full-term healthy twins on Monday,” Puranik said.
When contacted, Hari G Ramasubramanian, founder of Chennai-based Indian Surrogacy Law Centre, said, “This is not the first time such a case has been reported in India. There have been two or three similar cases in the past, which have led to this debate on whether someone can have children posthumously.”
Elaborating the ethical concerns, Ramasubramanian said, “There are four issues here. First, did the son give consent that his semen be used for procreation after his death? Second, how are the grandparents going to secure the future of the newborns in all aspects of life and living? Third, while a person has the right to become a parent, the right to become grandparents is completely outside the ambit of fundamental rights. Fourth, and most importantly, what about the rights of the child to have normal parenting?”
Ramasubramanian said that there is no specific legislation on such cases presently. “The Surrogacy Regulation Bill 2016 is still pending. We only have guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which are more than a decade old,” he pointed out.
Indian Surrogacy Law Centre is the first law firm specialising in the fertility law in India.
Pune-based gynaecologist Pankaj Sarode of the Pune Obstetric and Gynaecological Society (POGS) said, “It is a medical feat which can be celebrated. But ethically, I don’t think this is correct. Bringing joy to grandparents is not what medical technology should be exploited for.”