“Let Me Keep My Dead Husband’s Sperm”: Ethical Issues in Posthumous Reproduction


Nikoletta Panagiotopoulou and Stamatios Karavolos


         The feasibility of posthumous reproduction when the surviving partner is female has brought to light many ethical, moral, social, and legal issues. This review aims to summarize these issues and to assist clinicians who may be faced with such requests. A question list, used for health technologies assessment, was utilized in a question-answer approach as the review methodology. Of the 1,208 publications identified through a comprehensive literature search in biomedical, psychological, and ethical databases, 31 articles included arguments related to one or more questions from the predefined question set. Key stakeholders identified include the deceased, the requesting party, the resultant child, the physician, and society. Key ethical issues relevant to posthumous reproduction include the four traditional pillars of medical ethics—autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice—as well as the stakeholders’ rights and sociocultural attitudes. The ethical framework formulated by these issues has been incorporated in a clinical ethics decision-making tool that could prove useful to clinicians and decision makers.



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