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New York appeals court rules parents have no right to dead son's semen

[JURIST] The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that the parents of a 23 year-old, who donated semen prior to his death from cancer in 1998, were not entitled to possession of the specimens. Mary and Antonio Speranza sought their son Mark's semen specimens, which he donated in 1997 so that he could have children after if he survived his battle with cancer, from Repro Lab, Inc. [corporate website] in order to have a grandchild. The court relied on regulations from the New York State Department of Health [official website] in its ruling, finding that Mark was considered a "directed donor" under New York law. As a result, Speranza was only entitled to direct his semen to a specific recipient, and had chosen to have his semen destroyed upon his death. Mark's parents argued that they had not had the opportunity to perform discovery and that the contract between Mark and Repro Lab had been violated. The court found:

Also implicit in plaintiffs' presentation is the suggestion that the balance of the equities weighs in their favor. However, although plaintiffs' plight elicits sympathy, we can find no legal basis for allowing the ultimate relief plaintiffs seek, and there are substantial grounds upon which it must be denied. Although as between the parties, defendant will not be harmed if plaintiffs prevail, other broader interests preclude giving plaintiffs possession of the specimens for purposes of engendering Mark's biological child, their grandchild, with the sperm he left behind.
The case was one of first impression, and the Speranzas are still considering a possible appeal. Repro Lab has agreed to keep the semen specimens until the Speranzas have decided to no longer appeal.

The appeal came as a result of the decision by New York State Supreme Court judge Jane Solomon in January 2007. Solomon had initially denied the motion [opinion; PDF] for preliminary injunction and declared the Speranzas had no legal right to semen specimens because they were not part of Mark's estate in October 2006. The Speranzas requested that Repro Lab keep Mark's semen as they looked for a potential surrogate following his death in 1998. Repro Lab agreed to do so as long as the monthly storage fees were paid.

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