The sperm from a young filmmaker who died 11 years ago has become the stuff of legal argument.
It’s the sperm of Cameron Duncan, who shared his battle with bone cancer through his short films before his death in November 2003 aged just 17.
According to this report in the Herald on Sunday:
Eleven years on, the case is poised to make legal history.
Before he started chemotherapy, Duncan banked sperm for later use. He made no secret of his wish to father a child in the future and wanted his sperm preserved.
It is understood he signed paperwork giving his mother ownership rights to the sperm if he died.
But it’s not as simple as that in a country with committees set up to regulate just about everything we do.
Seven years after Cameron’s death, the family applied to the Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (Ecart) for “the posthumous donation of sperm from the deceased to his sister’s female partner”.
The application was rejected because it contravened guidelines for the storage, use and disposal of sperm from a dead man.
As the HoS tells it:
Under current laws it can only be used with prior written approval from the man.
Duncan was also a minor when he died. Legally no one has the right to use the sperm stored by a minor except the person himself.
It is understood the Duncans will argue Cameron intended for the sperm to be used when he gave his mother ownership rights.
Cameron’s sperm and the question of how it can be legally used has come to public attention because the family has applied to Ecart to extend the storage time of Cameron’s sperm because it has reached the 10-year limit.
Ecart said it could not grant an extension for something that was illegal. It nevertheless accepted that the Duncans could challenge the decision and so:
The committee gave the family one year to “allow the applicant to take any steps she thinks legally appropriate to apply to Ecart for use of the sperm”.
Duncan family members declined to comment to the HoS.
But the newspaper says it understands they are taking legal advice in the hope of carrying out Cameron’s wishes. They have until November to plead their case.
Because “ethics” are heavily involved in this case, Alf is tempted to muse on some of the moral issues raised.
At the time of Cameron’s death New Zealand did not have the Civil Union Act – it took effect the following year.
Same-sex marriage became legal more recently, in August 2013.
A nice question to ask, therefore, is whether Cameron could have anticipated a pair of gay sheilas using his frozen sperm to have a baby.
And if he could have anticipated such a possibility, would he have sanctioned his seed being sown in this way?
It means his offspring will be able to claim both the donor and their aunt as “dad”.