'Let me keep my dead husband's sperm'

Beth and her husband Warren Beth and her husband Warren

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A woman has begun a legal bid to prevent her dead husband's frozen sperm from being destroyed.

Beth Warren, 28, has been told by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that the sperm cannot be stored beyond April 2015.

Her husband, Warren Brewer, a ski instructor, died of a brain tumour at the age of 32 in February 2012.

His sperm was stored before treatment, and he made it clear his wife should be allowed to use it posthumously.

Start Quote

I do not know what will happen in the future and I would like to have the choice left open to be able to have my husband's child as I know he would have wanted.”

End Quote Beth Warren

The couple, who were together for eight years, married in a hospice six weeks before his death. She subsequently changed her surname to Warren.

"I understand that it's a huge decision to have a child who will never meet their father, " said Mrs Warren, who lives in Birmingham.

"I cannot make that choice now and need more time to build my life back. I may never go ahead with treatment but I want to have the freedom to decide once I am no longer grieving.

"My brother died in a car accident just weeks before my husband's death, so there has been a huge amount to cope with."

Mrs Warren was initially told that her husband's last consent form lapsed in April 2013, but has subsequently been granted two brief extensions amounting to two years. The frozen sperm is stored at the CARE fertility clinic in Northampton.

Her lawyer, James Lawford Davies said the 2009 regulations created injustice.

"Common-sense dictates that she should be allowed time to recover from the loss of her husband and brother and not be forced into making such an important reproductive choice at this point in her life."

Mr Lawford Davies, whose firm is not charging Mrs Warren to represent her, said there were a number of inconsistencies about the regulations.

The sperm has to be used by April 2015, but if it was thawed and used to create embryos, these could be stored for a further seven years.

The time limit also means that Mrs Warren could use the sperm to create one child but not a second.

There is also no restriction on the sperm being exported, which would mean Mrs Warren could be treated abroad in the future, but not in the UK.

The case will be heard next year by a judge from the Family Division of the High Court.

Beth Warren: "I really just need more time to make a decision"

Options open

In her legal submission Mrs Warren said: "I am aware that I may decide not to use the stored samples in the event that I meet someone in the future and choose to have a family with him.

Regulations for storage of sperm and eggs in the UK

Patients about to undergo radiotherapy often have sperm or eggs (gametes) removed as the treatment can cause infertility.

Regulations which came into force in 2009 allow for gametes to be stored for up to 55 years provided that the person who provided the sperm or eggs renews their consent every ten years.

But patients who die are unable to renew their consent, setting a shorter time limit on storage.

"I do not know what will happen in the future, and I would like to have the choice left open to be able to have my husband's child - as I know he would have wanted."

In a statement the fertility regulator said: "The HFEA has every sympathy with Mrs Warren and the tragic circumstance in which she finds herself.

"We have been in discussions with Mrs Warren's solicitors for some time and each time new information has been presented to us, we have reconsidered the legal situation in as responsive a way as possible.

"However, the law on the storage of gametes is clear and the HFEA has no discretion to extend the storage period beyond that to which her husband gave written consent."

The case will renew the debate over the ethics of posthumous conception.

In 1997 Diane Blood won the right to conceive a child using sperm from her dead husband.

The Court of Appeal ruled against the HFEA and said that Mrs Blood should be allowed to seek treatment abroad.

But in that case the sperm had been removed when he was in a coma and without his written consent. Mrs Blood went on to have two sons after treatment in Belgium.

In this case Mr Brewer had his sperm stored prior to radiotherapy treatment in 2005, and in subsequent years signed several forms stating that his wife could use the samples.

Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    Yes the child would not know their biological father but in this day and age, who knows, maybe Mr & Mrs Warren prepared a memoirs box to give the child so they at least could establish some connection with their deceased father. 108 "...we do not care about others..." Mrs Warren is clearly caring about her late husbands wishes - you are clearly not caring about her position! Compassion is the word

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    It is sickening to read some of the comments within this forum! Mrs Warren is taking her time to decide on her life choices for the future; she can only be applauded for this. Grief knows no time! As for those moaning about taxpayers money - maybe they are self-funded (most IVF patients are)!  His wishes should be honoured in death as in life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    There was a time, not that long ago, when experienced clinicians were trusted to advise patients on their best options.
    Now, they only have the options of choosing which of a limited set of pigeonholes to try to cram that patient into - pigeonholes chosen by politically-appointed comittees who never see the patients whose care they control. This approach is strangling more and more of healthcare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    If a man dies before he has a chance to reproduce his chance is lost with his life. Playing god is no sin I want a part in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    Pudwin #100
    "The bloke died nearly 2 years ago. If she doesn't want his kid now, is she holding off to see if she gets remarried and has a 'normal' pregnancy?
    Sounds to me as if she's hedging her bets."

    Sounds to me that you, and the HFEA, think that you can mandate how much time another person is allowed to get through their grief process.

    Very disappointing that this is the top-rated comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    If you do the math, Beth Warren was 18 or 19 when she met her older husband - she stuck with him for 8 years, and was only married to him for 6 weeks at the end of his life. It sure looks like the only one hedging his bets was the husband. Beth is a good person to even consider having his kids. I would not have the child of a man who played games, guilt trip marriage or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    @334 yetanothersarah

    There is no comparison between a 28 year old woman who was in a committed relationship and a 16 year old girl who accidently gets pregnant.Your logic escapes me completely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    While I feel for this lady, I know from experience how hard being a single parent is. Also wonder how many saying she should go ahead and decide to have a child alone. would tut-tut at 16 year old who became pregnant by mistake?

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    Sperm banks probably have samples from donors who have died. I'm assuming they can still keep them so what's the problem here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    all i can see are are the words selfish, arrogant, and thoughtless. yet another woman bleeting on about how much money other people should spend to satisfy her selfish desires. there should be no ivf, and no 'frpzen sperm', until ALL the unwanted and unadopted children are given a loving home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    First I would like to say to Beth Warren please accept my condolences on the loss of your husband. secondly I would like to say to all those people that have sent in self opinionated views. Walk a mile in Beth Warrens shoes before making your self righteous comments. Beth you have my sympathies keep at it girl.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    How will she explain to the child that she deliberately deprived him/her of any chance of having a Father.

    On the other hand the establishment seems determined to drive men out of existence so maybe it wont matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    What a tangled web we weave when the law becomes involved in the choice to conceive.

    The clinic of course has no choice but to comply with the laws as they are but I hope the judge's ruling allows the wife's wishes to be respected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    The problem with this country - everyone wants everything and no one wants to pay or realizes money is not endless - sick of paying 6 figures taxes which gets absorbed in too many crazy ventures...Oh before people write in, when I started working in 1990, I was working three jobs 7 days a week to pay my rent on a bedsit and put some food on my plate

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    "She should just get on with it"? "If she really wanted a kid"? No-one knows anything about her circumstances except what we are told in the article, which isn't a lot - It may be that she really wants a child but doesn't have a stable home, or a steady income to support her child, and wishes to wait until a point in the future when she does. Perhaps she's thinking about whay's best for the baby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    Surely if she loved him in death? ... ... ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    We no-longer live in a free country however if its clear he wanted it and she wants it, And i don't expect the cost is great, Let her do what she wants.
    And its not really anybodies business but her's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    Beth, I would like to thank you very much for your braveness to go ahead with your case, and to share your story with us. I strongly believe nobody must judge upon your actions, whether or not you should wish to get pregnant by your beloved and lost husband. It is upon you to decide only, and your willingness to talk about the issues involved will help the world to evolve. Best wishes for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    Formula1Dragon said "Should not be allowed to play god. He is dead and so the sperm should be destroyed". By that distorted logic so should the unborn child of a widow! What nonsense. The husband clearly gave his consent, and the only logical and decent presumption is that this consent abides.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    "Sounds to me as if she's hedging her bets.....I'd be thinking "well get a move on love"."

    How is this +84? He wouldn't be saying anything, he's dead, as is her brother. I honestly can't believe how heartless people are. Object to the use of the sperm, fine but don't suggest she's some selfish woman as she's not ready to decide after less than 2 years.


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