In February 2012, Beth Warren's husband Warren Brewer died of a brain tumor. His sperm was stored in 2005, prior to radiotherapy, and Brewer made it clear that his wife could use the samples following his death. Now, legal regulations could prevent Warren from using the samples to conceive a child, should she choose to do so later than 2015.
According to the BBC, the situation stands to renew the debate over the ethics of posthumous conception, and it should. In 2009, regulations were created that would allow Warren's husband's dying consent to expire. As it stands, the law threatens to tread on Warren's right to choose if and when to conceive a child with her departed husband's sperm – a decision, she says, she cannot make lightly.
She's right, of course. The decision to bear children is obviously a huge decision in and of itself – but so, says Warren, is opting to bring children into the world who will never meet their father. That she should be required to make either of these decisions so soon after her husband's parting is outrageous.
"I cannot make that choice now and need more time to build my life back," said Warren. "I may never go ahead with treatment but I want to have the freedom to decide once I am no longer grieving."
A statement from the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority fertility regulator acknowledges the ridiculousness of Warren's situation, but claims the law is unambiguous about the matter:
The HFEA has every sympathy with Mrs Warren and the tragic circumstance in which she finds herself.
We have been in discussions with Mrs Warren's solicitors for some time and each time new information has been presented to us, we have reconsidered the legal situation in as responsive a way as possible.
However, the law on the storage of gametes is clear and the HFEA has no discretion to extend the storage period beyond that to which her husband gave written consent.
The case will be heard in 2014 by a judge from the Family Division of the High Court.
Top image via Shutterstock.