April 12th, 2009 10:07 EST
Dallas Mother Collects Dead Son's Sperm; Moral Issues Arise
Before he was killed in a street brawl in the early hours of March 27th, 21-year-old Nikolas Colton Evans from Bedford, Texas, had always told his mother that he wanted to be a father some day. Naturally, with his passing, this seemed to many to be impossible until the proactive mother took it upon herself to make his dream a reality.
With the court`s consent, Missy Evans, the belated`s mother, obtained sperm specimens from her deceased son in the hopes of finding a surrogate mother to carry her future grandchild.
The case has duly met with opposition due to the ethical sensitivity of the case: should someone aid in conceiving a child long after they`ve already died? Ethicists believe the court granting her the permission to harvest her dead son`s sperm was clearly violating codes of ethics. And one opposer directly attacked Ms. Evans for creating what they called a "replacement child".
Missy Evans, 42, said she never wished it would come to this, especially after the few short hours going into Friday, March 27th.
Nikolas Evans was in Austin when he was involved in an altercation outside a nightclub, according to spokespeople for the Austin police. During the scuffle, Evans was punched before he fell to the ground where his head violently struck the pavement. Evans was transported to University Medical Center at nearby Brackenridge, where he was hospitalized until he was taken off life support on April 5th.
When the doctor told Ms. Evans that he did all he could for her son, she thought about her son`s wishes in having children.
She said that her son even wished to have three sons, and chose three names based off of his favorite passions in music and classic cinema. Though she couldn`t fulfill her son`s aspiration of graduating college, she thought that science might help him. After consulting with her ex-husband, her older son, and some of her closest relatives, she was validated in pursuing her late son`s last wishes.
Missy Evans said: "My son wanted to graduate from college. He wanted to have children. And someone took that away from him." And though the reactions against her judgment were decidedly mixed, Evans felt proud over her goal: "He would love me so much for doing this."
Last Tuesday, Missy Evans went to court in Travis County to get permission in collecting her son`s sperm. Probate Judge Guy Herman ruled in favor of Missy Evans` wishes and ordered the county`s Medical Examiner`s Office to store her son`s body in an cold environment that doesn`t exceed 39.2 degrees, and to allow a medical expert to gather a specimen.
A urologist from Austin offered her expertise to the mother shortly after the judge reached his verdict, and took testicular tissue samples from the body on Wednesday. The doctor said that the body was cooled just in time to prevent any further decomposition, so she was able to collect enough viable specimens for the grieving woman.
Mark Mueller, Evans` attorney, said he and his client didn`t encounter any opposition to the motion in court.
Out of court was an entirely different story.
Ethicists sympathized with the bereaving mother, who made the decision at a very vulnerable time in her coping process, but had it been delayed any further, the samples would`ve likely been useless.
Among the opponents criticizing the mother`s judgment, church officials and authorities on medical ethics have voiced their qualms over the mitigating circumstances of this case in particular.
Tom Mayo, the director of Southern Methodist University`s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, said: "That child`s biological father will be dead. The mother may be an egg donor, anonymous or gestational surrogate. This is a tough way for a kid to come into the world. As the details emerge and the child learns more about their origins, I just wonder what the impact will be on a replacement child."
The director continued to say that this story of a woman willing to find the "replacement child" took an unorthodox twist. And he said, though she wouldn`t concede it: "The underlying desire would be strong,even if she wouldn`t describe it that way."
There have been approximately 1,000 similar requests by relatives, spouses, friends, and significant others in the last ten years in the United States alone, according to Art Caplan, chair of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He also cited the common fact shared by nearly all the cases in that most "don`t wind up using it."
The decision to obtain sperm in these instances normally comes down to the urologist in charge of the procedure, because hospitals don`t abide by the same protocol in addressing these situations, Caplan said. And the courts haven`t updated laws on the books to confront the issue, and those that have, are usually vague and flexible.
Melissa Brisman, an attorney on the American Fertility Association`s legal advisory council, said it`s typically uncommon to see a child conceived from a reproductive specimen acquired from a deceased person.
Brisman said: "This is an unexpected death in which there are tons of emotions and you don`t even know it you want to do it."
A professor of philosophy and religious studies from Youngstown State University disputes the court`s judgment in granting Evans` request. He argued that though Nikolas Evans may have talking to his mother about wanting kids in the future, that doesn`t necessarily mean he would`ve agreed with fathering a child after he died.
Missy Evans wasn`t quite sure of when she`d be willing to find a surrogate mother for her son`s sperm, but admitted that she still has no doubts over her plan.
She said: "This is probably going to bankrupt me and I will do whatever I can to make it happen."