Judge says late West Point cadet's sperm can be used to produce child

Daily Freeman-1 year before

State Supreme Court Justice John Colangelo said Thursday that the parents of Peter Zhu hadn't decided whether to attempt conception with a surrogate mother, but he ruled it's their decision to make.

"At this time, the court will place no restrictions on the use to which Peter's parents may ultimately put their son's sperm, including its potential use for procreative purposes," Colangelo wrote.

The judge, though, noted such potential obstacles as the reluctance of some doctors to assist for ethical reasons.

Zhu, 21, of Concord, Calif., died after a skiing accident in ...ebruary at West Point. His parents received court permission soon after to have his sperm retrieved and frozen, but the judge waited until last week to rule on whether they could attempt reproduction.

Colangelo said he found no restrictions in state or federal law. He noted that few courts have addressed the issue of posthumous reproduction, but those that have addressed it used the decedent's intent as a deciding factor. He cited a 2008 case in which a court ordered destruction of a man's sperm according to his written request during his lifetime, despite his widow's claim to the sperm as her property.

The judge also cited a 1993 case in which a court held that a dead man's estate representative did not have the right to destroy his frozen sperm in light of his written intent that it be stored for possible future use by his longtime girlfriend.

Zhu left no written intention regarding the use of his genetic material for procreation after his death, Colangelo said. But he said Zhu's parents testified regarding conversations during which he talked about his dream of having several children and the responsibility he felt to carry on his cultural and family legacy. Likewise, Zhu's military adviser at West Point testified the cadet had stated a goal of having several children.

Monica Minzhi Yao, Zhu's mother, said Monday that the family wants privacy and will not comment on the case. "We are extremely devastated over this freak accident," she said. "Our pain is something that no words can describe."

Zhu, a member of the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2019, was found unresponsive on a slope by a fellow skier on Feb. 23. Ski patrol personnel conducted life-saving measures as he was taken to Keller Army Community at West Point. Zhu then was flown to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, where he died four days later.

Zhu was president of the Cadet Medical Society and served on regimental staff the first semester of his senior year.

The first documented post-mortem sperm removal was reported in 1980, and the first baby conceived using the procedure was born in 1999, according to medical journals.

Typically, court cases involving posthumous reproduction are filed by surviving spouses, not parents. But Zhu's case isn't unprecedented.

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