ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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Health Ministry cuts red tape for sperm retrieval from sons killed in war

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Illustrative -- In this May 15, 2018, photo, a scientist picks up a vial containing frozen donor sperm samples in a lab in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Illustrative -- In this May 15, 2018, photo, a scientist picks up a vial containing frozen donor sperm samples in a lab in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The Health Ministry is allowing parents to circumvent usual legal procedures to have the sperm of their fallen soldier sons, or civilians sons killed during the war, to be retrieved before burial.

According to a report in Haaretz, sperm has been retrieved from 33 men in the last month — four of them civilians and the rest soldiers.

In normal times, posthumous sperm retrieval (PSR) can be done at the request of a widow without any need for legal bureaucracy, but parents who want their dead son’s sperm to be retrieved and preserved must obtain an order from a family court. This requirement has been eliminated, at least temporarily.

The Health Ministry has set up a special unit that works 24/7 with the IDF and the four hospitals housing sperm banks — Ichilov, Sheba, Shamir (Assaf Harofeh), and Beilinson — to notify families of the option of PSR and set it up as quickly as possible following the death of their son or husband.

Sperm must be retrieved within 24 hours after death to increase its chances of viability when it is later unfrozen and used to fertilize an egg. However, experts say that PSR can be performed even several days after death when sperm is no longer motile.

“We look for and prefer sperm that are moving. But even sperm that is not motile does not mean that it is not alive. We know how to make it move after it is unfrozen,” said Dr. Yuval Or, head of the IVF unit at Kaplan Medical Center.

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