Judge rules parents of dead West Point cadet can use his sperm to produce a child
© West Point

A New York Supreme Court justice ruled that the parents of a 21-year-old West Point cadet who died following a skiing accident can use his frozen sperm to produce a child.

Justice John Colangelo last week gave the parents of Peter Zhu the ability to attempt conception with a surrogate mother and their late son’s sperm, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Colangelo reportedly said the parents have not decided whether they will try the procedure.

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Zhu, of Concord, Calif., died in February after suffering a fractured spinal cord that deprived his brain of oxygen. He was declared brain dead less than a week later, The Washington Post reported in March. 

His parents, Yongmin and Monica Zhu, reportedly received court permission to have their son's sperm retrieved and frozen while he underwent organ donation surgery, and the sperm has been preserved since then.

“Peter’s death was a horrific, tragic and sudden nightmare that neither of us could have prepared for,” his parents wrote in the filing. “We are desperate to have a small piece of Peter that might live on and continue to spread the joy and happiness that Peter brought to all of our lives." 

Colangelo reportedly waited months before ruling last week that Zhu’s parents can use the sperm for attempted reproduction, saying that he found no restrictions in state or federal law.

However, the judge noted that potential ethical concerns surrounding posthumous reproduction could make doctors reluctant to assist with the procedure, the AP noted.

His parents testified about conversations with their son prior to his death regarding his desire to have children, according to the news service.

They said their son felt a responsibility to carry on his family legacy as the sole male child in his family. Only sons can pass down the family name in Chinese culture, the parents noted in their petition obtained by the Post.

“When Peter was born, his grandfather cried tears of joy that a son was born to carry on our family’s name,” they said. “Peter took this role very seriously, and fully intended to carry on our family’s lineage through children of his own.”

Zhu’s military adviser at West Point testified that Zhu discussed his goal of becoming a father during mentoring sessions. 

Court cases involving posthumous reproduction are typically filed by surviving spouses, AP noted. However, other parents have been granted permission to extract their son’s sperm after his death.