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WA: Laws need changing on posthumous sperm

WA: Laws need changing on posthumous sperm
16 January 2009
PERTH, Jan 15 AAP - Laws need to be clarified to allow West Australian women to use sperm from their dead partners to conceive, Health Minister Kim Hames said on Thursday.

Another case has emerged in WA of a woman making an urgent application in the Supreme Court to retrieve sperm from her partner in the small window available after his death.

Under WA law, it is legal to retrieve the sperm from dead men but illegal for fertility clinics to use it to help the woman conceive.

The Minister has asked the governing body in WA - the Reproductive Technology Council - to advise as to whether the law needs changing and the council will meet next month to consider recent cases in the media.

"I have written to the (RTC) asking them if firstly they are able to make a ruling, if not what changes to do they need," Dr Hames said to journalists.

"I'm not certain that in every one of these cases, the government or the public would be supportive of that occurring, but the debate needs to occur … both opposition and ourselves," Dr Hames said.

"I have spoken to the deputy leader of the opposition asking him to talk to Labor party members trying to come to a consensus decision on what progress forward we should make."

Asked whether the final decision should be left to the Minister, he said: "Probably not … if there needs to be a body to make that decision it should be the Reproductive Technology Council, that's what they're there for."

Perth lawyer Abigail Rogers has recently acted for three women who have applied to the Supreme Court for urgent action to allow sperm to be retrieved posthumously.

The latest case involves a 43 year-old woman from Geraldton who Ms Rogers says had several conversations with her partner about having children, before he died.

Late last year a 32 year-old woman won the right to retrieve sperm from her partner who died suddenly and prior to that, 39 year-old Rosalina Susilawati was also successful in getting a court order to access sperm after her partner died.

Ms Rogers says it needs to be proven before the law that prior consent was given, for the sperm to be retrieved posthumously.

In Ms Susilawati's case, she and her partner were already undergoing infertility treatment when his death occurred, so their intentions are recorded in medical records.

The Geraldton woman and her partner had visited a doctor to discuss possible IVF treatment and had had several conversations, Ms Rogers says.

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