In the developed world outliving your children is, these days, considered a tragedy as, thanks to all of our technological and medical advances, mortality rates amongst the young are not what they once were.
This is, of course, a good thing. However it does mean that when such an event does occur the family that are left behind can find it difficult to cope with something that is considered out of the norm by modern standards.
It is perhaps even worse when it is unexpected, occurring because of an accident or suicide, rather than as the result of a known illness.
Having have sat in a room with friends of my parents who were grieving for their daughter (of about my age) who suicided, I saw some of the utter incomprehension that they went through. I won’t even try to describe it and I can’t imagine that it is any easier for those who lose a child to an accident.
We come then to the tale of 17 year old Israeli Chen Aida Ayash. Hit by a car in late July this year she died in hospital on August 3rd. After her death her family decided to donate her organs. All well and good. It is at this time though that the story gets into territory which causes me ethical and moral problems.
Why? Because at the same time the family obtained a court order to allow her ova to be harvested and frozen.
They also attempted, at the same time, to have the court allow that the eggs be fertilised with donated sperm but the court refused to authorise this saying that there was no proof that their daughter wanted children.
Yes, it is sad for her parents that their daughter died before she could given them grandchildren to bounce on their knees but there is no inalienable right to grandchildren, just as there is no inalienable right to children.
I’m sure someone will accuse me of not being true to Libertarianism by supporting the court here but so far as I see it death means death. It is the end of your hopes and dreams – and the end of the hopes and dreams that anyone, including your parents, had for you.
That said I can see an arguable case (whether I agree with it or not) for opposite gender partners who were in a stable, long term relationship with the deceased being allowed access to sperm (indeed this has already happened on a number of occasions) or eggs to allow the chance of procreation but their parents? I’m afraid I have to draw the line at that.
For the life of me I cannot see why parents of the deceased would want to conceive, after the death of the child, a grandchild who will never know its parents, especially when one of those ‘parents’ would be an anonymous sperm donor chosen by the grandparents? A child that would gestate in the womb of yet another party. A child that will some day want to know why its birthday is so well over 9 months after mummy died. A child that, whilst your grandchild, you will have to raise as your own child. A child that you can’t spoil in the way you would any other grandchild.
We may well be able to do this thing but just because we can doesn’t mean that we always should.
NB: It is reported in the Telegraph that the family has had a change of heart of will no longer seek to fertilise the frozen eggs.