Amid the ongoing war against Hamas, Israel’s Health Ministry has reportedly allowed parents to bypass normal legal procedures to facilitate the recovery of sperm from their dead sons, whether soldiers or civilians killed during the conflict.
According to a report by Haaretz, in the last month sperm has been recovered from 33 men, four of them civilians and the rest soldiers.
Sperm must be retrieved within 24 hours of death to increase its chances of viability
Under normal circumstances, postmortem sperm retrieval (PSR) is allowed in Israel at the widow’s request, without legal procedures being required. However, when parents wish to keep their dead son’s sperm, a court order is required. This condition has reportedly been temporarily removed.
Cooperation of Ministry of Health – IDF – hospitals
A special unit, established by the Israeli Ministry of Health, operates around the clock in cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and four hospitals that house sperm banks: Ichilov, Sheba, Shamir (Assaf Harofeh) and Beilinson. This unit informs families of the choice of PSR and expedites the process immediately after the death of their son or spouse.
Sperm must be retrieved within 24 hours of death to increase its chances of viability when later thawed and used to fertilize an egg. However, experts say that PSR can be performed even several days after death, when the sperm is no longer motile.
Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip
Dr. Yuval Or, head of the IVF unit at Kaplan Medical Center, emphasized the preference for motile sperm, but clarified that immobility does not indicate non-viability.
“We look for and prefer motile sperm, but even sperm that are not motile does not mean they are not alive. We know how to make it move after it thaws,” said Dr. Yuval Or in the Times of Israel.
Israeli filmmaker Shaylee Atary wanted to retrieve the sperm of her husband, Yahav Winner, but due to the delay in finding and identifying his body, the sperm had become useless when it was finally retrieved.
Gil Siegal, head of the Center for Medical Law, Bioethics and Health Policy at the academic Ono College, expressed his opinion at the time, noting that by retrieving sperm from a dead man, his relatives are trying to restore something that was lost under tragic circumstances.
“It is no surprise that sperm retrieval from dead soldiers is impossible in most countries. It is in a child’s best interest to be born to living parents and not in a situation of planned orphanhood. My heart goes out to the bereaved parents, but the dialogue around fertility and birth needs to start with the mother, the father and the child, not the grandmother, the grandfather, the father and the child. When you retrieve sperm from a dead man, you are trying to restore something that was lost under tragic circumstances. It’s like setting up a living monument,” he said.