Parents want to collect injured son's sperm
Should parents be able to collect son's sperm if he dies?
The root of the issue is simple. If 19-year-old Rufus McGill II dies, his parents want his memory to live. They want grandchildren.
But that concern is secondary. McGill, after all, remains on life support at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, and his parents, Jerri and Rufus McGill, hold hope their son can pull through. But if he doesn't, and hope fails, they said they want to harvest their son's sperm to start the next generation on their own.
"I just think there's a mission for his dad and I," Jerri McGill said on Tuesday. "This happened for a reason. There's no doubt in my mind that he would want this."
The ramifications of making that kind of medical decision are murky, though. While Jerri and Rufus McGill can make the decision to end life support, they can't legally collect their son's sperm. He's an adult, and they are no longer considered his legal guardians. Rufus McGill II has one full brother, who lives with his father in North Carolina, and two half-siblings.
It's an issue that places the McGills at a crossroads, where health and family law intersect with the ethical implications of starting new life without a person's expressed consent. And while post-mortem collection of semen isn't unheard of, the permutations of what happens to the child after gestation does raise red flags, ethicists say.
McGill has been listed in critical condition since Oct. 14, when he crashed his mother's 2005 Cadillac near Boones Mill in Franklin County. The wreck involved six people and killed Hannah M. Long, a 15-year-old Liberty High School student. Rufus McGill II was airlifted to the hospital.
"He took a turn for the worst last Sunday," Jerri McGill said. "They're running some tests right now, but the doctors believe he's brain dead."
"There are some decisions that his father and I are going to have to make."
It's been a two-week nightmare for the McGills, one that has kept them camped out in a hospital waiting area since the crash.
Divorced, but still on amicable terms, the pair, both 40, agreed that keeping alive the possibility of grandchildren through their son was a positive thing. They even found a University of Virginia Medical Center urologist willing to perform the procedure, they said.
"The problem is a court order," Jerri McGill said. "We have to have a court order because of his age. We have called attorneys in Roanoke and they won't touch it with a 10-foot pole."
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