The European Court of Human Rights has rejected the complaint of a woman who wanted to have a child conceived with the sperm of her deceased son. Professor Andreas praise Hudepohl of the German ethics advice can only confirm the prohibition.
Interviewer: This woman's son had been desperate to have a child before he died, and she now wanted to fulfill his last wish, this mother said. Let's leave aside the controversial ie of artificial insemination without natural sexual intercourse. What speaks then from catholic view against it that now with its sperm a child is conceived?
Andreas Lob-Hudepohl (Professor of Theological Ethics and member of the German Ethics Council): One argument against this is that the right to reproductive autonomy is tied to someone who is alive and not already deceased. The second point against it: procreation is for the creation of new life for the sake of new life. And not to extend oneself, so to speak, biologically or genetically into the future. It's a question of the best interests of the child and not a question of what parents want.
Interviewer: In Germany there is an embryo protection law. That expressly prohibits fertilization with sperm from a deceased person. But also against this there were already complaints. It is also said that it is not compatible with interception on this point because it violates personal rights. What is your assessment of this?
Praise-Hudepohl: I still think that the embryo protection law is right. And that's because it can no longer affect the personal rights of the deceased person. The deceased is deceased, and the right to reproduction is a right of a living person, who is also still a legal entity.
Interviewer: The legal side has become clear in principle. What is the general reason why people want to have children even after death?? The idea has also somehow something spooky.
Lob-Hudepohl: Indeed. But the desire is not new at all, there is already almost an archetypal desire of people to biologically prolong their own life into eternity. But it is just not child welfare oriented. That is, the idea that I reproduce in order to give life and for the sake of the child is, of course, a modern idea. However, this should be in the foreground, especially from the perspective of Christian ethics. The extension of one's own biological life via my descendants or the securing of my gene pool to my descendants is a thought that is incompatible with the basic idea of individuality, the uniqueness of each human life from a perspective of Christianity.
There the promise of the eternal life is completely affirmed from another side and not about a biological component, so that I would like to perpetuate myself so to speak in my children's children. Descendants are used for one's own interests to perpetuate them, and I consider that a violation of the dignity of other human beings, who would be completely used in this way.
Interviewer: Has the discussion now ended with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, or does it go further??
Lob-Hudepohl: I suspect it will continue. In the context of reproductive medicine, completely new constellations and technical possibilities – the freezing of one's own sperm or the female egg for decades until a time when I can then perhaps activate it again. This is already not only under discussion, it is even practice in many countries, for example in Spain.
Reproductive medicine options will lead to much debate, including over embryo protection law. I think it is all the more important for us to focus on the central ideas of procreation. And that means new life, to beget for its own sake and not to satisfy our desires for some form of parenthood.
The interview was conducted by Martin Bornemeier.