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A Young Cadet Died Skiing. Now, a 'Bittersweet Result'

Parents get court's OK to retrieve Peter Zhu's sperm
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 4, 2019 5:58 PM CST
This undated photo shows West Point Cadet Peter Zhu, who died on Thursday of injuries he sustained while skiing on Feb. 23 at Victor Constant Ski Area on the academy grounds.   (US Military Academy at West Point via AP)

(Newser) – The parents of a 21-year-old West Point cadet fatally injured in a skiing accident raced the clock to get a judge's permission to retrieve his sperm for "the possibility of preserving some piece of our child that might live on." US Military Academy Cadet Peter Zhu was declared brain-dead Wednesday, four days after he was involved in a skiing accident at West Point that fractured his spine and cut off oxygen to his brain, per the AP. "That afternoon, our entire world collapsed around us," Monica and Yongmin Zhu of Concord, Calif., said in a court petition. But they saw a brief window to fulfill at least part of Peter's oft-stated desire to one day raise five children. The parents asked a state court judge Friday for permission to retrieve his sperm before his organs were removed for donation later that day at Westchester Medical Center. They argued the procedure needed to be done that day.

The first documented post-mortem sperm removal was reported in 1980, and the first baby conceived using the procedure was born in 1999, according to medical journals. Usually the request comes from a surviving spouse. In 2018, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued ethical guidelines for fertility centers on posthumous collection of reproductive tissue, saying it's justifiable if authorized in writing by the deceased; otherwise, it said, programs should only consider requests from the surviving spouse or partner. Zhu's parents told the court that he's the only male child of the Zhu family and that if they don't obtain the genetic material, "it will be impossible to carry on our family's lineage, and our family name will die." The judge later that day directed the medical center to retrieve the sperm and ordered it stored pending a court hearing March 21 regarding the next steps. The Zhus' attorney calls the decision a "bittersweet result" for the family. (Read more sperm stories.)

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