A post-mortem sperm retrieval or sperm extraction, known as a PMSR, is a medical procedure performed by a surgically trained Urologist whereby potentially sperm containing tissue is extracted from the testicles of a man that is recently deceased. PMSR is typically performed when death is unexpected. It is this procedure that protects a spouse or partner’s (under certain conditions) dream of having children, despite the tragedy of his untimely death.
Retrieving sperm in a post-mortem case can be a complicated process, as there are many moving pieces that need to occur within 48-72 hours of death. PMSR Network has been created specifically to make this process occur efficiently and successfully. Orchestrating the consult, paperwork, sperm retrieval, labs, and transport can take 12 or more hours. If the decedent passed away outside of a hospital setting, the sperm retrieval will typically have to wait until the autopsy is complete and the body will need to be transported from the morgue where a Urologist can retrieve the sperm. If the decedent is in a hospital setting, and he is an organ donor, organ donation organizations will want to retrieve the organs within a matter of hours, so that could mean that the sperm retrieval also needs to be coordinated within a matter of hours—remember that orchestrating the moving pieces typically takes about 12 hours, so you can see that the process can get complicated quickly.
It should be noted that theoretically, the longer it takes to acquire and process sperm from the time of death, the lower will be the quality and viability of the tissue. Fortunately, with modern reproductive technology, only minimum numbers of sperm are typically necessary for success.
First Thing’s First
The most crucial thing on the “to do list” is to have blood drawn in order to perform infectious disease testing. Without this testing, it may be more difficult to find a facility that is able or willing to perform the IVF procedure. This is because the practitioner that performed the insemination will be putting material from the decedent into the woman’s uterus and the practitioner must ensure that the woman will not contract a sexually transmitted infection from the sperm used. That being said, it may still be possible to use the sperm without the testing.
It can be difficult for a doctor to travel long-distance to perform a surgery, as he has other patient responsibilities. It is however, entirely possible to have the body transported to the doctor. In the past, PMSR Network has experienced having the body transported via a hearse or through a morgue courier service. It may be easier to have the extracted tissue shipped or to personally fly it to our office in San Diego.
Reproductive Rights of the Deceased
California law, like most State laws, clearly indicates that the reproductive tissues is the sole property of the deceased and therefore it must have been his intention prior to death that he wanted to have a child and specifically with that partner or spouse. The procurement team must be convinced of this before moving forward. It usually involves interviewing the next of kin, including the parents of the deceased and confirming from all parties about the wishes of the deceased.
You May Need to Inform/Convince Your Provider(s)
It is also important to know that post-mortem sperm retrievals are relatively uncommon. The physician or coroner may be unfamiliar with the process, so it is up to the family members to initiate the process. It is also widely undecided who gains ownership of the sperm upon the man’s death: parents or significant other? Due to this unknown legal status, some hospitals or morgues may not be the most cooperative due to the uncharted territory of PMSR cases. Be diligent.
PMSR Network Can Help
PMSR Network has worked out these details and legalities of this emotional time. A team has been created to work with the family, physicians, hospitals, coroners, and others in the process. We are here to help. If you have the name and phone number of the barrier entity, give it to us and the PMSR Network Coordinator and she will assist.