Skip to navigationSkip to content

France has OKed the transit of a dead man’s sperm across its borders

AP Photo/Sang Tan
France does not allow post-mortem sperm retrieval.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Europe is in the throes of a debate about the movement of people across its borders. Then there’s the less-discussed question of the cross-border transit of sperm.

In several countries—including France, Germany, Sweden, and Canada—it’s illegal to use a man’s sperm after he dies to conceive a child. But today France’s Conseil d’État (Council of State) ruled in favor of exporting a dead man’s frozen sperm to Spain so that his widow could use it there for in-vitro fertilization. The woman’s lawyers called it an “extraordinary and unprecedented” decision (link in French.)

The couple, Mariana Gomez-Turri and Nicola Turri, lived in France when Turri was diagnosed with cancer of the lymphatic system. He froze his sperm before starting chemotherapy, a routine procedure due to the fact that treatment can cause infertility.

Turri, an Italian citizen, died in 2015. His wife, a Spanish citizen, moved back to Spain, and began a legal battle to create a child with his sperm, which was stored in France. Since Spanish law permits “post-mortem insemination,” Gomez-Turri argued that the least France could do was allow her to export her deceased husband’s genetic material.

The Council, agreed, saying that applying France’s ban on post-mortem insemination to the sperm-export question would be too intrusive into the private life of a foreign citizen. “Neither Ms Gomez nor the child will have links with France,” said the court’s spokesperson (link in French), “because the husband wasn’t French.” (Although post-mortem insemination is not legal in Italy, either.)

However, the court underlined that its decision should not be interpreted as an attempt to question (link in French) French law on post-mortem insemination in its territory.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.