Creating your own grandchild is a step too far

I admire grandparents who take on the responsibility of raising their grandchildren when their own children, for various reasons, are not able to. In the years when they should be enjoying their retirement they are forced to make many sacrifices in order to provide a stable home for the grandchildren. Often this comes at a significant financial cost. These grandparents are examples of selflessness as they put the needs of their grandchild ahead of their own needs.

On the other hand a recent story I read illustrates selfishness. While I understand the woman’s desire to have grandchildren despite the fact that her son is dead, I cannot support her  selfish campaign to make this desire come true. If she succeeds in finding a surrogate to carry her dead son’s child she is deliberately bringing into this world an orphan.  She is not going to be around for this child in adulthood. This child will never have a mother or father. This is not a situation where a grandparent steps up to look after a child when a parent is killed; this as a person deliberately creating a life in order to fulfill their need for a grandchild.

At least one potential surrogate has volunteered to be impregnated with sperm frozen before promising Auckland teenage filmmaker Cameron Duncan died 12 years ago.

The offers have breathed life into grieving mother Sharon Duncan’s dreams of creating a grandchild using her dead son’s sperm, which he banked when aged 15 before starting chemotherapy for bone cancer in 2002.

…”I think it’s really cool, I don’t have to go to a stranger – it’s someone in our circle,” she said.

…Cameron Duncan’s mother Sharon is hoping a law change will allow her to use her dead son’s sperm for a surrogate pregnancy.

“He was an amazing young man who inspired many, many people through his films… I could think of nothing better than to produce a child from him,” Sharon said.

While New Zealand’s laws and regulations have blocked her plans to date, she has been granted an extra decade to keep his sperm frozen while she seeks a solution.

“But I don’t want to don’t want to wait 10 years because by then I’ll be nearly 70,” Sharon said.

“I’ve spent the last several years battling against irrelevant fertility reproductive laws in New Zealand, and I demand a change.”

Cameron banked sperm in 2002 because he was warned his cancer treatment could destroy his fertility and he wanted children in his future.

At the time, he signed a form at the fertility clinic gifting it to his mother if he died, but it failed to specify his frozen sperm’s use after death.

His family had not discussed what to do with the sperm before his death because they were so focused on his survival.

“The form he, and presumably, all other donors in 2002 signed, simply asked ‘in the case of your death, who do you leave the sperm to’, so he wrote my name,” Sharon said.

A few years after Cameron’s death, Sharon inquired at a fertility clinic to see if she could use his sperm with a surrogate to produce offspring to raise, but was told it was deemed illegal.

Under the 2004 Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) Act, nobody has the right to use sperm stored by a minor aged under 16, except the person himself. An applicant to use the sperm has to show he gave consent for its use before dying.

However, Sharon believes that law does not apply to her case because it was introduced after Cameron’s death.

“I have always argued that he banked his sperm two years before that law existed, yet still [the Ethics Committee] maintain that ‘law’ remains applicable.

“These rewrites did not exist at the time of his signing, how can they apply to me now?”

Guidelines for the storage, use and disposal of sperm from a deceased man came into force in 2000, but they had no age specification.

In 2014, the Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology granted her approval to keep her son’s sperm frozen for one year because a law change imposed a 10-year limit on storage of frozen gametes, embryos and other fertility tissue.

At the time, she was told she would have to prove how she could overcome the legal hurdles to use her teenage son’s sperm without his consent.

Last year, she sought another extension to keep the sperm frozen while she tried to make her dreams reality and was granted an extra 10 years.

Since then, she has spoken to Russian doctor Lemara Kelesheva, who is raising four grandchildren in Moscow after using her dead son’s sperm to impregnate two surrogates, who both had twins in 2011.

Her son had died of leukaemia in 2005 aged 23.

Meanwhile, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said he was still waiting for more information before he could approve a proposed review of laws and regulations about collection, storage and use of gametes and embryos from dead and comatose people.

– Stuff’s



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  • Wheninrome

    Whilst reading the article in the newspaper I was waiting for the woman to suggest that she have a fertilised egg implanted ,or even worse that she be the egg donor.
    What is it with this type of person, “we shall be denied nothing” attitude.

  • Mrs_R

    As a parent I can understand the desire to do absolutely everything within your power to ensure the survival of your child. To lose them would cause an unbearable pain, one which I don’t think would ever leave you. I think this woman isn’t so much wanting a grand child, but rather she is wanting her son to continue living through the provision he made with his sperm. This is incredibly sad as well as understandable. The article doesn’t say whether he had a brother or sister who would raise the child as one of their own.

  • JohnO

    Is the cancer genetically linked? Will the child inherit a set of genes (from a father who died very young of cancer) that is coded for cancer at an early age. It has to be a high probability. Maybe an early death before breeding is natures way to avoid cancer-prone genes entering into the gene pool.

  • Usaywot

    This is a big problem in the world now. People are having babies for all the wrong reasons. Science has moved ahead of morality or even common decency. Babies should be born as a result of a loving relationship, that is the ideal. We know many aren’t, due to rapes or bad relationships but that is no excuse to deliberately create a child which is not your own just to fulfill a selfish desire. I know of young women whose biological clock is ticking who deliberately get pregnant to friends and acquaintances for the same reason, fully intending to bring the child up alone and therefore deprived from the start.

  • Phooey

    She could get a puppy if she is lonely. It will end in tears I am sure.